Shariifo Mohamed, a mother of two, has been a street cleaner since her mother died six years ago when a landmine exploded along the road she was walking on, killing her and dozens of other women in South Mogadishu.
Mohamed took up her menial US$2-a-day job from her deceased mother to help her take care of the family.
“I’m the eldest of the family and my father had died before my mother, so I had to fill the gap and feed the rest of the family, including my unemployed husband,” she told Xinhua in a recent interview. Somali mothers joined rest of the world on Sunday to mark the International’s Mother’s Day amid struggles to raise their children alone due to conflict at the Horn of Africa.
The women and children have been living in the harshest of conditions for over two decades due to factional fighting. Successive years of droughts and more conflict have resulted in repeated crop failure, depletion of livestock, rising food prices, deteriorating purchasing power, eroded coping mechanisms and a perpetual state of emergency, with mothers bearing the brunt as the most destitute and vulnerable.
Somali men used to be the breadwinners in the families, but since the collapse of an effective central government over two decades ago, women replaced men as breadwinners due to the insecurity that forced most of their husbands to remain indoors.
Some women have become street hawkers; others sell tea, juice or food, while some have also become housemaids.
Last year, Mohamed survived an explosion, similar to the one that killed her mother when a massive roadside bomb exploded near a pile of garbage she was trying to remove. The incident happened in Hodan district where at least five street cleaners were murdered and more than eight others injured.
“Four of my colleagues were killed in the attack and the force of the blast threw their bodies into the air,” Mohamed narrated. However, when asked about Mother’s Day, Mohamed said “I have no idea.” Asha Elmi, a housemaid and new mother whose first daughter was born three months ago, met Xinhua near the Bakara market, one of the biggest markets in Mogadishu city.
Carrying a heavy load of fruits under the scorching sun, she said “we mothers struggle to meet the family needs wherever we are.” “I report to work before dawn and continue till dusk, so let others mark Mother’s Day. It is a great day to me.”
Asked about her hope for the future of her daughter and her country, Elmi sounded optimistic, saying “hope always plays at the heart of humans. My hope is that my daughter will grow up in a peaceful environment and my country will become a better place to live in for my daughter and her generation.”