UNDP and Alternative Livelihoods to Piracy - Supporting female entrepreneurs in Somalia

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Bisharo is able to support her four children with the earnings from her small cafe. © UNDP / DANIELLE BOTTI

Starting a business with limited resources in the Somali coastal district of Eyl is difficult – especially for a woman.

Despite the challenges, Bisharo’s small café in Eyl is thriving. A UNDP micro-grant and small business training helped her set up the cafe, and Bisharo is now supporting her four children on the money she earns. “I am able to send all of my children to school,” she says proudly.

When UNDP’s Alternative Livelihoods to Piracy project set up its small business initiatives in Eyl, Bisharo’s town was a dangerous place. Insecurity was high and piracy was on the rise. Although she was not directly involved in piracy, Bisharo’s life and business were dependent on piracy-based incomes. Bisharo owned a tea shop on the main town square, and her Bisharo’s client base was largely young pirates.

When the pirates would leave town they would run out on their bills, leaving Bisharo desperate. “Piracy related crime kept many potential customers from my shop. But, when the pirates left, I was without money.”

With local authorities, UNDP worked with Bisharo’s local women’s center. Through consultations with the women, UNDP helped identify specific needs and challenges, in order to create targeted solutions to help. Based on their recommendations, UNDP began a small business initiative with the local women’s group. Providing small grants of $250 and small business training, UNDP is now helping the women build solutions to buffer the effects of piracy.

In Eyl, 150 women like Bisharo have received this small business package and are using their new skills to bolster local economies and provide for their families. Bisharo used the funds to expand her café into a restaurant. In addition to the small grants, the women are taught about the basics of owning a small business – including bookkeeping and marketing. Bisharo can now keep track of her savings and spending, and she is no longer reliant on a piracy-based income.

Today, Bisharo’s restaurant is popular, and she has invested her UNDP grant in a new television to cater to her growing customer base. “My restaurant is doing well. Pasta is my specialty, and my clients come from all over the region,” she says with a smile. Her business is growing, and so is her confidence. “The town is growing, and I am really looking forward to raising my children in a peaceful Eyl”.

Today, the town center is buzzing with new business and trade is opening up. Dropping crime rates and increasing security means that people are no longer afraid to come to Eyl. Traders, nomads, and livestock herders are arriving in town and bringing new business opportunities with them. It is this kind of fundamental shift in local economic growth that will help stabilize the area and reduce the impact of piracy on communities.