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Emergency Trust Fund for Africa
News article24 August 2023Directorate-General for International Partnerships4 min read

Breaking gender norm barriers in Somaliland through TVET Programmes

Enrolling in a technical skills course to master cooling systems, Ugbaad shattered expectations, emerging not only as the sole woman in a cohort of male peers but also as the lone cooling system expert in the entire Sahil Region of Somaliland.

Ugbaad Mohamed Omar at the TVET Training Graduation Ceremony in Berbera, Somaliland © Concern Worldwide
Ugbaad Mohamed Omar at the TVET Training Graduation Ceremony in Berbera, Somaliland © Concern Worldwide

Ugbaad participated in a specialized technical skills training course to learn how to fix and maintain cooling systems, particularly those related to air conditioning units.

Traditionally in Somali culture, jobs of such technical nature have historically been seen as suitable only for males. However, at the age of 21, Ugbaad fearlessly confronted these deeply ingrained societal norms. Despite facing prevailing prejudice and the community’s belief that women could not learn such skills, she pursued her aspiration relentlessly. 

Having been chosen as a beneficiary, she successfully completed an extensive 6-month Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) programme, followed by a month-long internship at YOVENCO technical institute, with a focus on mastering cooling system skills. Remarkably, she emerged as the only female student who attained this specialized training, her cohort consisting of 19 male peers.  

With the support of her parents, Ugbaad broke down gender barriers and became a role model for the young women. She now stands as the sole woman possessing a cooling system qualification across the entire Sahil Region of Somaliland.

Reflecting on her journey, Ugbaad Mohamed Omar, recalls:

"To learn this type of skill was my dream since childhood, I always wanted to be role model for my generation. Berbera is one of the hottest cities in the country, and the number cooling system technicians are few and are usually all men, but this opportunity gave me a chance break through gender barriers facing my community and today more young women are interesting in acquiring such skills." You can achieve whatever you dream, even if the context doesn’t agree with you, Ugbaad adds.

Ugbaad during her graduation ceremony © Concern Worldwide

From Berbera's Shores to Unveiling New Horizons

Ugbaad Mohammed Omar is originally from the coastal city Berbera. She has three siblings and she is the oldest child in her family. Her father, a fisherman is the breadwinner of the family. Having completed her Secondary School education in 2018, Ugbaad's aspirations for higher education were hindered by financial constraints.

The moment she spotted the advertisement for the Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) programme, she recognized its potential to alleviate her family’s financial burdens, understanding her father’s earnings fell short of meeting their daily needs and school fees.

Ugbaad's presence during the training period drew attention, as the prevailing bias doubted women's ability to succeed in this field. She recounts:

"When I told my parents about applying this skill, they were happy about it, and supported me”.

Yet, the surrounding community remained sceptical, deeming it an unsuitable job for a woman.

The culmination of her journey was marked by her graduation, an event that stirred excitement in the Deputy Mayor of Berbera. Seeing a woman graduate with expertise in this rare technical skill, the mayor announced Ugbaad’s inclusion as a member of Berbera municipality staff, effective from that very day.

Ugbaad also highlighted the vital role played by the monthly cash transfers from Concern Worldwide. These transfers proved instrumental in covering essential expenses like transportation to the training center and other basic needs. She further expressed a sincere request for the continuation of such projects, recognizing the pressing issue of youth unemployment, particularly in the Sahil region.

More about the Project:

The Social Transfers project aims to safeguard and advance socio-economic opportunities for the vulnerable population in the Somaliland Corridor through cash-based social transfers. This initiative, led by Concern Worldwide with the Ministry of Employment, Social and Family Affairs (MESAF), strives to enhance resilience, reduce poverty among marginalized households and communities, and bolster social, economic, and human capital. It also aims to facilitate access to productive activities for the most underprivileged youth in Somaliland.

Module 1 has reached 6,674 households (pregnant and lactating women) and under Module 2, 1,031 youths graduated from specialised programmes and received toolkits to boost their livelihoods. Additionally, under Module 3, 3,000 beneficiaries were provided $20 monthly for 12 months to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the elderly.

This effort is part of the broader "SAGAL Social Transfers for vulnerable Somali people" programme funded by the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, with a core objective to enhance household resilience against conflict and climate-induced shocks. It particularly focuses on internally displaced persons (IDPs), returnees, and impoverished host communities. Executed by the Somali Cash Consortium, led by Concern Worldwide and assisted by partners including Save the Children International (SCI), Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), and Danish Refugee Council (DRC), the approach revolves around two main components:

  1. Providing cash-based social transfers to targeted households, thereby reducing their vulnerability to shocks and disasters.
  2. Facilitating the establishment of systems at regional and district levels to implement a government-led social protection system.


Publication date
24 August 2023
Directorate-General for International Partnerships
Region and Country
  • Horn of Africa
  • Somalia
  • Greater economic and employment opportunities
  • Strengthening resilience of communities
  • Concern Worldwide

Programmes in the region

The action aims to enhance the ability of women and children in the States of Red Sea, Kassala and Gedaref to lead socially and economically productive lives, and in doing so strengthen their resilience and that of their communities.