'A chance for a good future'; Somaliland offers limited opportunities for women.

AuthorKush, Bronislaus B.

Byline: Bronislaus B. Kush

WORCESTER -- Nineteen-year-old Deqa Abdirahman Aden likes politics, and, after completing her studies in the United States, she said she would like to someday return home to Somaliland to run for public office.

However, raised in an African societal and religious culture that drastically limits opportunities for women, she recognizes that career option probably won't be available to her.

Only two women have ever risen to national ministerial posts in Somaliland, and Ms. Aden said there will probably never be a female president in her lifetime.

"In Somaliland, there's a strong belief that women belong in the home,'' said Ms. Aden, who will be graduating soon from Worcester Academy. "It is a country still dominated by men.''

Ms. Aden, thanks to $50,000 annual grants from a Michigan couple that are aimed at helping African youth, has been taking classes at the private school on Providence Street for the past two years.

"If I had continued my education in Somaliland, I would have just learned the basics,'' she said. She will be attending Grinnell College in Iowa in the fall on a full scholarship. She received similar financial help offers from other schools, including Brandeis University.

A Muslim who grew up in Hargeisa, Ms. Aden has two sisters and a brother. Her parents are separated and her father now lives in Kenya.

Women in Somaliland, whose society is still based on paternal clans, don't get the same chances as their male counterparts, she said. Young women can't even mingle or talk with males.

"The culture is very conservative and there are separate rules for men and women,'' she said.

"Here, in the United States, I've been able to study so many, many subjects. Now I have a chance for a good future.''

Somaliland is a semiautonomous region that, after about 20 years of civil strife, broke away in the early 1990s, from Somalia, a nation along the Indian Ocean on the Horn of Africa.

Ms. Aden got the opportunity to study at Worcester Academy because of the generosity of Lori and Harry Emmons. Mr. Emmons is a 1960 graduate of the school on Union Hill.

At the elementary school Ms. Aden attended in Hargeisa, the classes had about 60 students but the female students received very little help and attention, she said.

Despite the indifference of the teachers, Ms. Aden managed to earn the highest score on a special exam of any girl student in the country. That gave her the chance to enroll in the Abaarso School of...

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