Fadumo Dayib Is Risking Her Life to Be Somalia's First Female Presidential Candidate

When Fadumo Dayib announced her bid to run for President of Somalia on national TV last year, people thought she was crazy. Somalia's violent history and the life-threatening conditions that the country's politicians and activists face on a daily basis makes Dayib's choice to run for office— especially as a woman in a patriarchal culture—a brave one. "People just can't understand why I would do such a thing," Dayib says.

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Somalia's 2016 elections will be the first democratic elections held since 1967, when President Abdirashid Ali Shermarke rose to power. He was assassinated two years later and the Somali Army quickly took control, declaring a military coup d'état. A civil war followed in the early 1990s, as well as severe famine and political upheaval. A federal, democratic president was finally elected by the Parliament in 2012 to replace a series of transitional governments. And if all goes according to Vision 2016, Somalia's citizens will officially elect its first democratic President next year.

If anyone can become Somalia's first female president, it is this articulate, highly successful Finnish woman of Somali origin. Born to illiterate Somali parents in the mid-1970s, Dayib had a turbulent childhood full of financial difficulties. Her single mother, who often had to go to great lengths to make ends meet, mainly raised her. But despite the disadvantages she faced early on in life, her résumé boasts an impressive list of credentials: After receiving several degrees in international public health, Dayib is currently a MC/MPA Mason fellow at Harvard and a doctoral candidate with a focus on women, peace, and security at the University of Helsinki. She also has over a decade of experience working for the UN. An especially notable feat considering Dayib didn't become fully literate until about the age of 14.

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