I decided to work in this field because I want to help vulnerable communities
UNHCR and CARE Kenya supported our schooling in the refugee camps. The condition of the school was very poor, made from sticks and plastic sheets. I used to sit on tins during the class. My dear mother Zainab Abdi Amud used to cook breakfast for me, made from maize, and tea every morning and insisted that I dress well in order to go school and madrasa. My father also gave me significant encouragement during my school time in the refugee camp in Kenya.
Though Somalia was not safe at the time, my father’s dream was that it would one day be safe to return to Somalia in peace and prosperity – my father had strong nationalist faith. I returned 10 years later and finished my degree at Bircham International University in Community Development & Social Work; my Masters in Development Studies is ongoing and I will finish soon. I initially worked as a teacher but soon found my way into the humanitarian sector, working for one year at Mercy Corps in conflict resolution, for six years at CARE International as a Senior Programme Officer, and finally moving to CTG as a Team Leader in Puntland Area office. I have over 9 years of experience in humanitarian aid.
M&E is imperative because we have to see the changes the project has made while asking “Is this project right for this area, and does it make a positive impact?”. My main assignment is to monitor and evaluate the projects we have running in Puntland. A typical day would involve me visiting the area where the project is running, sitting with project beneficiaries, Cooperating Partners (CPs), NGOs, local authorities and community elders. I begin by asking them how they understood the project, whether it benefitted them, how it helped their livelihood status, and whether or not they were happy with the project. I also ask them what kind of food they received, as well as what they believed its short comings were. Feedback is vital, so I advise the community to understand the complaints mechanism we have in place.
As an M&E Consultant, part of my job involves investigating the capacity of food distribution and the environment (i.e. the warehouse) where they keep the food. I need to assess quality, cleanliness, and capacity, then make recommendations. We also provide school meals to scholars, so I check how many students are in the class and how many of them are girls or boys; I check the condition of the food storage and if there’s a kitchen and a washing facility, assess whether it’s sanitary, the condition of the cooking utensils, and find out how many times the school cooks the meal. I also assess the environment, including the playground, fencing, and the curriculum. I conduct my research by interviewing head masters, teachers and students.
I am interested in M&E because when you work as an M&E Consultant you have to come up with solutions to problems. I decided to work in this field because I want to help vulnerable communities. The civil war caused many problems in Somalia, especially for women and children. Through my work I can be the voice for those who are not heard. I enjoy helping people. The communities of Somalia are drenched with problems, but no one goes into these communities to listen to their problems and concerns. It makes me happy to be the person to bring their problems to the UN agencies, the people who can help them.
It makes me happy to hear success stories from the community, for example, when a family has received food and use it in the right way, they can use their income to cover other needs, thereby improving their livelihood.
When working with the community you become very well known, you are respected because of the support you provide. I am very proud of that. Working as a humanitarian you meet and interact with various communities with very different interests. You improve their nutrition, livelihood, education, provide good clean water, and promote more girls and boys going to school. You learn how to respond to the community and deal with situations where people come to you with a problem seeking help, and you need to relay their concerns because you’re not the donor, you’re just the M&E Consultant.
It’s challenging and risky working in Somalia, the resources are limited and the need is large. We don’t have capacity to answer all the needs of the community in Puntland; when you have little resources and want to share with two villages, often what ends up happening is you have to keep resources in one village and deny another. They become angry and it makes life dangerous for you as an aid worker. This is why you need to be strategic.
I am not happy with the situation in Somalia. I thought Somalia was recovering but currently arguments have erupted between national and state leaders. These types of arguments between leaders make me lose hope. We have Somali girls, boys, women and men who are dying because of a lack of food, water, sanitation and education; however, the humanitarian work we do here helps the cities get the support they need.
CTG has made a huge impact across Somalia and we’ve seen a lot of change because now we know what’s working with the project and we can give recommendations on corrections.
Before CTG, there was no proper M&E or transparent system. There is accountability now. I ask CTG to continue that good work!
I am very happy to be working with CTG and there is lots to be done in the future. CTG’s Female First initiative is possible and I’m able to see some of the strategies in place. We are able to enrol more girls in school which is good. I think working in this field is difficult for women, especially in Somalia – but it’s not impossible.
As M&E Consultants we go to very remote areas, and sometimes travel through more than 500 km of rough road to monitor projects. We have time limits and need to cover a lot of food distribution points in a short period of time. This will cause you to travel sometimes for a full day, on a Friday, or overnight. Sometimes the only option is to travel by sea. You should be a good swimmer when deciding to travel by sea. You should also travel with a good friend.
When working in M&E you have to be very balanced with diplomatic skills. You are monitoring a project that serves different stakeholders with different interests; you have to be fair in your roles and responsibilities by listening to the people. Listening is very important. You also need patience; you need time to analyse and listen and make judgements. You must be able to fit in with the community and be like them; dress like them, sit the way they sit, drive the same car – if you look like you aren’t one of the community members, your data will be useless or you will not get any data at all. Most importantly, before you embark on humanitarian work, you must ask yourself “who are you?”. You have to know who you are first.