At 60 my dream is valid, Safiyo Jama

Safiyo Jama Gayre, 60 years old student at the Faculty of Sharia and Law at Puntland State University in Garowe, Somalia. photo/ Said Mohamud Isse


Safiyo Jama Gayre is a 60 years old student at the Faculty of Sharia and Law at Puntland State University in Garowe, Somalia. In the Monthly meeting of the law students in the university, Safiyo opens every session with a prayer because it’s a tradition in Somalia that the oldest person opens meetings or community gatherings. This session’s prayer is her last with this group of students as she is graduating this year.

“I know I am a mother and a grandmother, but I am also a person who loves school, and I would study the rest of my life if the opportunity came along, because I want my life to be more meaningful,’’ She said.

Safiyo said that she returned to school to prove that age is not a barrier for a person to graduate and start a career in law and participate in building the justice sector in the country. In 1980, when She married after completion of high school, the responsibility towards her family kept her away from school till 2012.

When she heard, through local television advertisement, that the United Nations Development Programme(UNDP) was supporting a Scholarship programme which assists 93 students to join Puntland State University to study law, she decided to apply for the scholarship programme. The scholarships are funded through the UNDP Joint Rule of Law Programme, supporting long term legal education to increase the number of qualified lawyers, prosecutors and judges and other officials of the judiciary and law enforcement; in order to achieve sustainable and effective change in the dispensation of justice in Somalia.

 Many students like Safiyo, who graduated with first and second degrees in Law and Sharia, received job offers to work in the justice system in Somalia. According to UNDP, only 15 trained lawyers were available to the justice sector in Puntland prior to the start of the Rule of Law programme in 2008.  Currently, 73 of 89 law graduates, supported through the UNDP programme, are working in the justice sector in Puntland. Majority of them work with the Ministry of justice, the courts and law enforcement.

The progress made since 2008 is very encouraging said HE the Minister of Justice, Religious Affairs and Rehabilitation in Puntland, Salah Abdullahi. During the reestablishment of the Puntland Bar Association which took place in August this year, he said that ‘’ The huge number of qualified professionals, who are now available to the justice sector, serve as judges and lawyers in the justice system thanks to the support we got from the UNDP’’.

Returning to school

Prior to her enrollment into the program, Safiyo was not confident she could fulfil her dream to become a lawyer. Also for a woman it was especially difficult as there are several social and cultural barriers that need to be overcome before returning to school. Fellow entrance examinees were surprised to see Safiyo’s enthusiasm.

‘’ However, after the results of the entrance exam were released, I scored the second highest points.” This amazed the fellow classmates, as they found that they would be competing with a progressive woman, who had cut across all social and cultural barriers to fulfill her dreams.    

After submitting her thesis, Safiyo said she was proud to have fulfilled her dream, and thanked the Joint Rule of Law Programme which is funded through the Multi Partner Trust Fund(Denmark, European Union, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and UN Peacebuilding Fund)  for their generous support for her life changing experience. Safiyo now wants to inspire many Somali women to join school and learn ‘’it’s never too late to create opportunities for oneself and the society,’’ She said.

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