Halima Abdi Arush

Full name: Ms. Halima Abdi Arush
Age: 73 years old
Nationality: Somali
Job title:Educator: a former teacher, headmistress and education inspector. Human rights activist and peacekeeper: Founder and Chairperson of IIDA Women’s Development Organisation; President of Somali Women’s Agenda (SWA)
Job description: Chairperson of IIDA Women’s Development Organisation

Hardest life lesson?
The Somalia Civil War brought about a state of clan warfare which has brought total state collapse. The war in Somalia widened the poverty gap between the elite class and the poor.
Neighbors and friends turned against each other as a result of clan affiliation and I was forced to leave my home of 26 years as I was afraid of my neighbors.

Which experience in life taught you most about yourself and why?
The trauma from losing my husband who was taken and executed due clan-based killings, and hiding my youngest daughter to protect her from harm. These experiences taught me that in order to survive and heal from the trauma, forgiveness is more powerful than anger, revenge and vengeance.

What part of your work are you most proud of?
I led the way in mobilizing civil society engagement in peace work, which resulted in the inception of IIDA Women’s Development Organisation (IIDA) which was the first organizations which played an important role in the demobilization and disarmament of children associated with armed forces and groups in Somalia in the early years of the Somalia conflict (1990s).

What effect do you have on others?
I have noticed that when I speak, people listen to what I have to say and are respectful towards me.

What aspects of your job do you enjoy the most?
I draw great emphasis on the equality of access to all levels of education as crucial to empowering women, children, and vulnerable communities to participate in economic, social and political life of their societies. Education unlocks a woman and child’s potential, and is accompanied by improvements in health, nutrition, and well-being of women and their families.

Who is your career role model and why?
When I was a student in Somalia, an Italian nun came to teach at my school and she didn’t speak Somali nor did the students speak Italian. she overcame this obstacle by bridging this communication gap by using visual methods of communication and the use of gestures through movement and signals. I looked up to because through her perseverance and passion for teaching, she had the willingness and patience to help students learn proving that there is no barrier to teaching.

What motivates you?
The importance of education and my activism on social justice. I have always had the passion and commitment to bring about the change through education of children and the beneficial impact it has in their lives.

Describe yourself in three words…
Visionary; wise; tolerant

The values you most admire in others?
Courage and truthfulness.

Favorite adage/motto you live your life by – and who said it?
I live by my own motto “what’s meant to be yours and is good for you will come to you.”

What do you most frequently dream about?
A peaceful Somalia in which I see myself returning to my place of birth which is Merka (South West State) and the farm I grew up on many years ago before the conflict erupted.

Finish these sentences:
The key to success is determination
The future is Optimistic
My greatest joy is my two granddaughters and watching them grow up emanating traits of future leaders; social justice and activism passed down to them.