Lack of self-confidence is the biggest problem for young people,” says Samiira Mohamed, who trains marginalised youth – the youth work model developed in Finland also works in Somaliland

In Somaliland, youth unemployment is more the rule than the exception. Samiira Mohamed, 26, a trainer at the youth organisation Y-Peer, tries to get marginalised young people to recognise their own problems – and strengths.

“The most important skill I have learned is listening. First you have to listen to what the young people are saying and only then can you give advice,” says Samiira Mohamed. Photo: Teija Laakso /


Teija Laakso

When young people come to Samiira Mohamed’s training, they are not really interested in anything.

“If you ask them what they would like to be, they will say nothing. They are hopeless,” he describes.

Samira, 26, works as a trainer in the Somali youth organization Y-Peer. Its work includes, among other things, strengthening the life management of young people excluded from education and working life through the so-called Vamos coaching developed in Finland.

The results have been promising. According to Samira, the hardest part of the job is winning the trust of young people, but when that happens and the coaching is successful, many young people manage to get a new grip on their lives and return to school or start looking for work.

Lack of opportunities

Somaliland is a society where young people are actually deprived of all the opportunities needed to build a good life.

The region is officially part of Somalia, but it has declared independence. Conditions are unstable and plagued by unrest, a weak economy, poor basic services and deep-rooted inequalities. The population is young, but employment opportunities for young people are poor. In Somalia as a whole, up to two-thirds of young people are unemployed.

“Basic services, such as education, are not free, so there are many young people who do not have the opportunity to get an education. The education system is weak. There are also no youth centres, libraries, stadiums or playgrounds,” Samira describes.

When there are no opportunities for education, work or leisure, young people are put on the wrong track. Many work in the shadow economy, get married too young, become immigrants or end up in criminal gangs. Substance abuse is also a significant problem.

Self-confidence at zero

Samira is Somaliland but was born in Saudi Arabia, from where he moved to Somaliland with his family as a child. He belongs to the country’s small population of university-educated young people and has worked at Y-Peer for about four years.

Last week, she and her colleagues visited Finland to learn about Finnish youth work. One of the organisation’s supporters is the Finnish Deaconess Institute, which has developed the Vamos model also applied in Somaliland.

In Finland, approximately 2,000 young people outside employment, education or training participate in Vamos training every year. The coaching is based on individual-centred guidance, which is used to find solutions to basic everyday problems.

The goal is for young people to break free from the cycle of negative behaviours and plan their lives in the long term, says Sara Tabrizizadeh-Haavisto, Programme Coordinator at the Deaconess Institute.

In Somaliland, the concept is slightly different. There, the young people undergo a five-day group training, during which the focus is on basic life management skills. However, we are currently moving towards individual coaching. Training takes place in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland.

“The most common problem among young people is a lack of self-confidence. We have a lot of talented, smart and kind young people, but they don’t have the ability to recognize their problems or their own talents because we don’t have the resources to support them,” says Samira.

That’s why Vamos focuses on strengthening basic everyday skills. The course teaches you how to plan your own time, think critically and make sensible decisions, communicate and make friends, perform, write a CV – and generally identify your strengths.

For example, decision-making training uses the so-called HELP model, the letters of which refer to the English words health, ethical, legal and parents. In decision-making, young people must therefore take into account health, ethics, legality and, in the context of Somaliland, also the opinion of their parents.

“It is part of our religion that young people obey their parents,” Samira explains.

According to him, young people are especially afraid of performing, and communication can take place at first with only yes and no answers. That’s why trainings often start with just chatting.

According to Samira, who is visiting Europe for the first time, the situation of young people in Finland and Somaliland seems quite different: young people in Finland have opportunities to get an education and study, but not in Somaliland.

On the other hand, basically the problems are the same.

“The realities of life in Somaliland as a whole are, of course, more challenging. In Finland, most young people are doing quite well.  What they have in common, however, is that young people are not in working life or at school – they have nothing to do during the day,” says Sara Tabrizizadeh-Haavisto.

Get the girls involved

Young people who are already in a difficult position, such as members of minority clans, internally displaced persons, young single mothers and people with disabilities, are particularly involved in the training. The age range is approximately between 15 and 26.

The majority of participants are women. That’s because they’re more committed to action, Mohamed praises. In the rest of society, they don’t have as few opportunities as men, so people are happy to come to Y-Peer’s events.

“If you have 12 children and four boys in a family, those boys are sent to school because you think they’re kind of paying it back. However, that is not even true. Women benefit more from education.”

From gang member to taxi driver

In Finland, it has been found that more than half of Vamos trainees have progressed to education or working life.

The results in Somaliland are similar. In four years, a total of 600 young people have completed Vamos training.

Exact statistics are not yet available, but many have either returned to school, found a job or internship, or otherwise become active in their community.

“The most important impact is that young people have a vision and goals in their lives,” says Samira.

Young people are not left with nothing after the Vamos training, as after that they keep in touch with their instructors through WhatsApp groups and alumni meetings, for example. Samira says that she often runs into his trainees while walking in Hargeisa.

“I took a taxi to the airport to come to Finland, and the taxi driver was Vamos-trained. He used to be part of a dangerous criminal gang, but now he’s started driving a taxi.”

Source: Lack of self-confidence is the biggest problem for young people,” says Samiira Mohamed, who trains marginalised youth – the youth work model developed in Finland also works in Somaliland

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