Fadumo Dayib, the first woman to run for president of Somalia, spoke Monday at Fresno State about how her past and “the four deaths of a Somalian woman” have shaped her campaign.
“A Somali woman actually dies four times in her life,” Dayib said. “She dies when she’s born. She dies on the day that she is mutilated. She dies on her wedding night. And she dies when she has her first child.”
Dayib’s experience as a refugee and her knowledge of international public health were two themes part of her visit to campus. Fresno State professor Kris Clarke, who interviewed Dayib, said that it was important that she came to Fresno before her long journey home.
Dayib described her experiences fleeing the Somalian Civil War in the 1990s. Forced from her home as a refugee at 16, Dayib and her siblings made their way to Europe to begin new lives.
She said that, although she was thankful to have received the chance to leave Somalia before the war began, she was discouraged by her new life and felt out of place.
“I am tired of being homeless,” she said. “I am tired of trying to belong to countries that don’t want me.”
Displaced from her home for over 25 years, Dayib said that her new life in Finland opened her eyes to the misconceptions those in the Western world had of her people and their practices.
“[Genital mutilation] is done by women, and the ones who push for it are women,” Dayib said. “I hear the Western feminists say that it is done because the Somali men want it.”
The practice of female genital mutilation is common in Somalia even though there are laws in the country banning it. Part of Dayib’s campaign platform consisted of promoting education throughout Somalia rather than discouragement to help decrease the practice’s popularity.
“Education is the key to life,” Dayib said. “The day I got that is the day I became free. To be able to use your own mind to rationalize is the best thing a human being can have access to.”
The first female Somali refugee to be accepted at a Finnish university, Dayib continues her studies at Harvard University as a fellow in the Mid-Career Master in Public Administration Edward S. Mason Program.
Junior Krysten Cherkaski said that she was in awe of Dayib — someone who meant so much to the political landscape of Africa — being here at Fresno State.
“I liked her comment about the fact that given her circumstance and how far she made it, imagine what we can do considering we live in a Western country that she doesn’t necessarily provide the same challenges growing up,” Cherkaski said.
Senior Kiea Jones said that listening to a woman like Fadumo Dayib speak at Fresno State also was inspiring to her.
“At one point she said that if she was to have inspired one person, then her job is done,” Jones said, “and I am extremely inspired.”
Dayib said that her path to becoming president will also inspire those in her country, especially the women and children whose voices cannot always be heard.
“Particularly I’m doing it for my daughters, my mother and other mothers,” Dayib said. “It’s not about 2016, it’s [about] decades, centuries down the line. I want to instigate social change.”
Knowing that she faces a tough road ahead, Dayib said that she is prepared for any outcome.
“It won’t be easy,” Dayib said. “It could actually mean losing my own life, but so be it. You can live a certain life which is worse than death, and that is what we, us Somalians, live.”