Somali Women Are Rebuilding Somalia, New Documentary Shows How

Co-written with Eunice Lau.

For more than 20 years, there has been a seemingly endless litany of bad news coming out of Somalia. Images of famine, war and piracy have made Somalia the poster child for dysfunctional African countries -- the epitome of a failed state that needs to be saved from itself.


But Somalia is still standing. In fact, the streets of Mogadishu are bustling with life, and business has begun to thrive since African Union and Somali Transitional Government troops have secured the capital from Al-Shabaab insurgents. Contrary to the idea of Somalia as a basket case of development, this is a testimony to the resilience of the Somalis. Especially the women, who have found ways to rebuild the country in spite of the severe restrictions and reprisals imposed on them by Al-Shabaab.


This resolve is the inspiration behind our film project Through The Fire, which is a documentary about what Somalis, particularly women, are doing to rebuild their country. It gives a different perspective on Somalis: not as helpless victims or faceless militants, but resilient people who have not only persevered, but managed to move forward through some of the most difficult circumstances in the world. 

You may ask, why the focus on women? And we say because the courage of the Somali women is something to behold. When the world had to abandon Somalia in 1995, they refused to run away or give up. Dr. Hawa Abdi opened up her home to 90,000 people for more than 10 years -- even as Al-Shabaab threatened to kill her. Then there is Shamso Abdule, who went into hiding with her family during the fighting, but secretly set up a trading network among women to help keep life going.


And you may ask, why now? We say because for the first time in 21 years, Somalia has a real chance at peace and stability, as the transitional government and African Union troops regain control over Mogadishu and historic elections are coming this August.

So, because timing is everything, we’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds we need to make this film now. If you like the idea, and want to see a new face of Somalia, check out the project here.

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Arthur Nazaryan

Arthur Nazaryan taught himself photography while studying philosophy at the University of Stony Brook. His work has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, Christian Science Monitor, Common Language Project, and Huffington Post. for whom he also maintains a photo-blog.

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