The most special people on Earth

There is a saying in Somali tradition that the ability to climb trees is what separates the men from women. The girls at Heshima believe otherwise, climbing to prove their worth and equality as women.

Asho is the class clown who gets straight A’s, immediately endearing her to her peers and teachers alike. She keeps those around her laughing with her lighthearted jokes, while maintaining a distanced independence and maturity beyond her 17 years that hints at her troubled past. Originally from southern Somalia, Asho chooses not to talk about her old life there and is very much acclimated to her new home in Nairobi after two years with Heshima. With her big sister style of tough love and self-assured independence, Asho was enthusiastic to talk candidly about the role of women in her society.

“Women are the most special people on Earth” Asho begins, with characteristic, unabashed directness.  She describes the importance of women’s role both as tender care-givers and as leaders, however repressed they are in the latter role today.  Without pause, she explains matter-of-factly how women “are mistreated by men in all different cultures around the world.”  Asho describes this gender inequality as a cultural problem, displaying a mature understanding that relegating women to doing house chores is a cultural decision, not an inherent problem with men. She laments that currently in her Somali culture, “when [men] hear a woman will be a leader, they put their fingers in their ears to show that they will not trust women with confidence.”

A woman with confidence is exactly what Asho is. She has taken on leadership roles within Heshima’s Girls Empowerment Project and photographed for this blog. Regardless of the gender discrimination Asho has seen or personally faced in her 17 short years, she remains a role model at Heshima in her maturity and openhearted understanding that all people are equal. “What men can do” she says, “We women can do with the same ability.”

Written by Beth Goldberg


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