Learning for Livelihoods – Empowering Female Heads of Household

Project highlights:

Working with Female Headed Households with project provides basic literacy, numeracy and livelihood skills training and enables access to microfinance to enable women to start their own businesses.


The situation

Devastated over the past 20 years by successive cycles of drought, conflict and famine, recent assessments have ranked Somalia at 165 out of 170 countries in terms of human development and second only to Afghanistan as the worst place to be a woman.

Many of the poorest groups in Somalia consist of people displaced by conflict or famine (over 2.6 million in 2020), among whom as many as 42% of households are headed by women. These households are most reliant upon loans, gifts (kaalmo), alms (zakat) and “marginal livelihood strategies”, with typically few assets to sell. Because of the low status and education of women, these families are particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

Despite the years of conflict and famine the traditional Somali economy continues to function much as it always has, with growing opportunities to find work or start small businesses, but these are open only to those with the necessary skills and assets, which the poorest households do not have.

How does it work

This project supports the most vulnerable Somali households out of extreme poverty and dependence on external aid, by giving them the skills and assets they need to establish themselves in work or business. These marginalised households are given a practical chance to adopt more viable livelihood strategies. By working with community leaders and building on local traditions of social support, the project addressed issues of protection and assistance for female headed households in particular. 

Selected female heads of households enrol in a six-month course in basic literacy/numeracy and social issues, focused on the application of reading, writing and mathematics to everyday life and livelihood activities.  This includes discussion of wider social protection issues, including health, nutrition and sanitation; gender relations; violence and conflict resolution; and the rights of children, minorities and people with disabilities.

On completion, they receive training in their chosen livelihood skill, which best suits their own circumstances and local market opportunities. This is supported by training in business skills and financial literacy to enable them to put a business plan together and potentially apply for a microloan to get their business up and running.

Who does it help

This project has supported over 3,700 of the most vulnerable Somali households to gain literacy, numeracy and livelihood skills. This has given them the skills they need and opportunities to access microfinance to establish themselves in work or business.