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Somalia marginalized and Minority Fellows programme

Duration: 30 September 2021 – 30 September 2025

Country: Somalia

Communities: Awer, Bajuni, Bantu, Benadiri, Eyle, Rahanweyne, Occupational Groups (Mahdiban Tumaal, and Yibir)

What is this programme about?

This programme aims to increase minority participation in Somali public life and build increased trust between minority communities and the authorities. To achieve this, marginalized and minority fellows will receive placements in the Federal Parliament of Somalia, its executive bodies, its line ministries, and the federal government assembly of South West State. Through the placements, we aim to increase the fellows’ professional knowledge, skills, experience, social capital and confidence.

Building on the primary purpose, the programme also aims to make minorities more visible at decision-making levels, with fellows in placements acting as a conduit for minority views and a source of information and access in those settings. In the process, we will advance understanding and support from critical Somali government officials and other stakeholders on the value of greater political inclusion of members of marginalized and minority groups in public service and politics.

The programme is divided into two cycles. The current one, aimed at 16 marginalized and minority fellows, started in September 2023. It was preceded by a pilot phase involving ten marginalized and minority fellows implemented by MRG and partners Marginalised Community Advocacy Network and Humanity and Inclusion for Sustainable Advocates between September 2021 and June 2023. Ultimately, we will develop and deliver a clear and authoritative evidence base and key learning points to contribute to a longer-term fellowship programme with countrywide coverage.

Why are we delivering this programme?

All the targeted minority communities under this programme are highly marginalized, face ongoing discrimination and experience poverty and exclusion. Clan dynamics mean that minorities are unable to compete with members of significant clans for the limited work opportunities in the Somali civil service at either the SWS or the Federal level. Minority personnel are mainly absent in all governmental institutions in Somalia in almost all regions. This results in a lack of visibility of minorities in government decision-making and a lack of trust between local and federal authorities and minority communities. It also exacerbates the issue of minority-language exclusion in Somali public services and institutions.

Members of marginalized communities have a strong appetite for learning and capacity to learn, meaning that, given the opportunity, fellows can gain significant skills and experience for future career progression. Positive action programmes previously implemented on a pilot basis have been largely successful but also generated some learning points. A significant takeaway was that dominant community members had gamed such interventions to capture the benefits. Only scrutiny of applications with minority leadership involvement can guarantee this does not reoccur.

What are we doing?

  • Recruiting fellows and ensuring they complete at least ten months of a professional fellowship in a government work environment.
  • Identifying suitable placements for professional growth experiences for the fellows.
  • Providing continuous mentoring and support to fellows to continue their professional development journey.
  • Helping fellows identify ways to act as a bridge and bring community voices and perspectives into the offices in which they work.
  • Encouraging collaboration and support between the fellows through joint work.
  • Ensuring the fellows create content about their experiences that reaches minority and marginalized community members.
  • Supporting fellows in their job search to secure a paid professional post after the end of the placement.

During the first cycle, we:

  • Recruited 11 fellows (six women, five men, one person with a disability) and ensured they completed a placement in a government office.
  • Supported at least five fellows to complete additional career-specific training or gain further work experience.
  • Supported five of the 11 fellows in obtaining long-term paid professional work positions at the end of their placements.
  • Produced a business case and a report outlining lessons learnt.

Who are our partners?

Marginalised Community Advocacy Network (MCAN) is a Somali community-based non-governmental organization established in Somalia to assist vulnerable minority and marginalized groups. It was founded and is led primarily by members of minority clans in Somalia.

Save Minority Women and Children (SMWC) is a Somali women and minority-led organization established in 2010 to improve the situation of minorities and marginalized groups, especially women in South and Central Somalia.

During the first cycle, we also worked with Humanity and Inclusion for Sustainable Advocates (HISA), a non-governmental and non-profit organization founded in 2010 to improve the situation of women in Somalia. It was founded and is primarily led by members of minority clans.

Who is funding this programme?

The U.S. Department of State supports this programme through the Foreign Assistance Act.

What did the external evaluation say?

According to one fellow, ‘Every dream is valid if one is given an opportunity and support to realize that dream. The minority fellowship program in Somalia funded by the U.S. Department of State, through MRG, in partnership with MCAN and HISA, has restored our hope as minorities to be accepted as equals in Somalia.’ This sums up the achievement of two crucial, linked programme elements: inclusion through empowerment.

Young individuals from marginalized and minority backgrounds were equipped with the necessary tools to function effectively in roles across government, NGOs and the private sector. Through targeted training, peer-to-peer learning, and exposure to compliance and regulations, participants were prepared to take on responsibilities that not only advanced their careers but also addressed the challenges faced by their communities.

The fellowship programme’s emphasis on skill development, access to influential networks and financial stability has resulted in meaningful achievement for the fellows. These empowered individuals ‘have become agents of positive change within their communities, advocating for marginalized voices, driving impactful projects, and fostering inclusivity’. The sustained impact of the program lies not only in the tangible skills gained but also in the transformative shift in attitudes and perspectives as it continues to inspire and empower individuals, creating a ripple effect that reverberates through communities and catalyzing positive change.

The evaluators’ recommendations included that MRG and partners carry out more similar programmes with an earlier and fuller involvement of those supervising the fellows at work; to ensure that the placement offers match better with the fellows’ skills and career plans; to employ different and more systematic ways of helping fellows prioritize and drive their learning process during placements; and to improve the systematic use of Monitoring and Evaluation tools throughout the programme implementation.

Find out more

MRG is also an implementing partner in a similar programme, ‘Inclusion Fellowships for Minority Youth in Somalia’ led by the Puntland Minority Women Development Organisation (PMWDO) with the support of the United Nations Democracy Fund, alongside MCAN, the Daami Youth Development Organisation (DYDO) and the MIDNIMO Relief and Development Organisation (MRDO).

Minority fellow at work in Somalia. Credit: MRG.