In Somalia's booming capital, construction engineer Faduma Mohamed Ali is given her own job, supervising male workers twice her age while challenging stereotypes in the conservative Muslim nation of the Horn of Africa. Phi this.
She faced social stigma, family disapproval and workplace harassment, but insists she never doubted her career choice.
"I have always loved buildings and observed structures like mosques," the 22-year-old told AFP.
When she enrolled in civil engineering – where she was the only girl in her class – her friends and family didn't understand.
“How can a girl waste her time studying civil engineering?” It is a man's job,” said Faduma Mohamed Ali.
Even after she graduated and found a job in Mogadishu, the criticism continued:
"I was asked:
'Are you crazy?
- Chances -
According to the World Bank, in Somalia, where women make up less than a third of the workforce, many parents do not accept their daughters working with men.
But the mentality is changing.
Fathi Mohamed Abdi, 23, has worked as an engineer in Mogadishu for 3 years. She said she had the support of her parents and was "very happy" to become the first woman in her family to practice this profession:
“No one has ever tried it.” “They started encouraging me while I was in school and they continued to do so while I was working,” she said.
In college, she was one of only two women studying civil engineering. His choice paid off.
The construction sector is booming in the Somali capital, where the security situation has improved somewhat thanks to a military offensive launched by the government a year ago against Shebab Islamist extremists in the central region. country.
“Thanks to the growing investment in the construction sector, there are many (job) opportunities,” Fathi Mohamed Abdi emphasized. Hassan Mohamed Jimale, deputy mayor for public affairs in Mogadishu, assures that the authorities want to see more women on the job market.
"As a regional government, we encourage female engineers. The town planning department recruits female engineers, and we have a deputy director."
However, female engineers interviewed by AFP said they regularly face gender discrimination at work.
Iftin Mohamed, 26, one of them, said: "What frustrates me the most is the gossip and bad opinions that people have towards us, female engineers. Men keep telling us that this profession is not for women." “Workers rebelled when supervised by female engineers, who thought we were weaker than men,” she added.
She also emphasised that salaries are not equal.
Women, in most cases, are paid less than men, especially in private companies.”
Abukar Hussein Ibrahim, a mason who worked under Fathi Mohamed Abdi and other female engineers, said he liked working with women but believed many of his colleagues did not.
"Construction workers find it incredible to have a female engineer supervising their work. They spend a lot of time talking about it. They constantly wonder why we chose women, not men," the 42-year-old worker explained. -old. But they will have to get used to seeing women doing their jobs, Faduma Mohamed Ali warns.
“I recently attended a training course, and to my surprise, more than 100 girls participated,” she said.
“In the past, it was rare; today, things are changing.