A mother’s determination for a better life

Qadan pictured wearing blue smiles as one of her children whispers in her ear

Qadan, a 32-year-old budding business owner in Hargeisa, Somaliland went from selling one kilogram of rice or spaghetti a day in her restaurant, to five kilograms thanks to a small amount of money, a dose of encouragement, and a touch of training.

Qadan works only with one hand. The mother of six was born with the lower part of her left hand missing. But her disability certainly doesn’t slow her down.

Qadan is in her element pilling potatoes, chopping onions, vegetables, garlic and cooking for her customers.

Her daily income has doubled, and the lives of her six children (aged 12, 11, 9, 8, 5 and 1) has changed.

“I am happy with our lives right now. One thing that inspires me the most is that I have food – nutritious food – to give my children.” says Qadan.

“I saw my neighbours give their children nutritious food and I felt bad because I couldn’t afford it. But now I can provide for my children.”

Where it began

Qadan turned her passion for cooking into a business after her husband, and the family’s breadwinner, had to stop working after a head injury in a car accident. For a while, the neighbours provided the family with food, but it wasn’t hardly and the children began to suffer.

Qadan set up her restaurant, made simply of wood and iron sheets, outside her house to help her juggle work, home chores and childcare responsibilities.

The beginning was tough and the sales poor. Qadan couldn’t send her children to school and the family ate customers’ leftovers.


Growth for Qadan came after a team from the SOS Children’s Villages Family Strengthening Programme provided support, training her in hygiene, business management, parenting and childcare.

Then she joined a Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) and accessed a small loan of 300 US dollars – money she used to expand her business.

Our family strengthening services help families facing hardship to build their livelihood, moving them from surviving to thriving. With regular income, families can protect and care for their children, and set them up for success.

“Before SOS my customers sat on a mat on the floor or on jerricans,” says Qadan. “I didn’t have chairs. My service was poor and clients I served once didn’t return.

“With the loan, I was able to buy plastic tables, chairs, and a fridge to cool the water and juices. My restaurant is now making a good profit. I feed my children on special dishes like meat, eggs, and fish for their nutrition, and pay their school fees. I am doing well now.”

Qadan stands in her kitchen smiling.
Qadan pictured wearing blue smiles as one of her children whispers in her ear

Public primary education is free in Somaliland, but low-income families are unable to meet the cost of school supplies, uniforms, transportation costs and fees for teachers’ salaries.

Data from UNICEF (2019) shows that one in every two children in Somaliland does not have an opportunity to go to school. Poverty, drought, food insecurity, and inequality are the main obstacles.

“Today we went to school to learn, math, science and English,” says 12-year-old Suda, Qadan’s eldest child.

“I tried to focus as much as I could to understand. I like English more than any other subject because the teacher is very good. I would like to be a teacher one day to help other children become smart.”

Suda* is in grade three. His peers are in grade seven or eight.

It’s easy to see the effect of years of poor nutrition on Qadan’s children. But, with support, families can free themselves from debilitating challenges and provide their children with the foundations they need to grow and thrive.

New house

The family strengthening family also built Qadan and her family a house with two large rooms and a veranda, to improve the family’s accommodation.

Previously, the family of three adults and six children lived in a one-room Somali hut.

Qadan says the hut flooded when it rained and it couldn’t keep them warm in the cold season. It was also too small for the family.

The hut has been left to Qadan’s elderly mother who lives with them. She watches the youngest children when Qadan is busy in the restaurant.

“Since I got this space, I can invite my friends for tea,” says Qadan happily. “Even relatives visit and can spend the night. It’s a good feeling. I couldn’t receive visitors before because I had no space. The children use one room and I entertain the visitors on the veranda.”

Qadan says the relationship with her children has improved without the daily stress of money. She hopes her determination will teach her children that they can do whatever they set their minds to, no matter the circumstances.

“Since we now have good communication, they tell me everything they see at school or in the streets. They’ve become open and chatty. I really want to work hard so they can achieve their dreams.”

*Names changed to protect the privacy of the family

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