Thirty years ago, local customs meant Fatuma's mother was under pressure to pull her out of school. Without the food offered at school, it's likely she would have dropped out. But she didn't. She got an education and then decided to devote her life to helping other kids do the same.Today Fatuma is a key figure in WFP's operations to support refugees in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya.
DADAAB -- Early in the morning as WFP cars assemble to take staff to the camps, Fatuma Mohamed looks out for the vehicle going to Dagahaley. With a water bottle in hand, and covered almost completely in her black , she quickly finds a place, buckles up and begins a journey she has done many times before.
Fatuma has been working with WFP several years now, as field monitor assistant in Dadaab. Her work includes ensuring accountability and transparency in food distributions, as well as writing reports and co-ordinating WFP activities with partner agencies.
The child of a policeman and grandchild of a colonial chief Kenya’s Northeastern region, Fatuma is one of many Kenyan Somali people who live successful lives today in part because of the support they received from WFP through its school meals programme.
Like most people in her province, Fatuma had a rough start to life. A wife and mother of three now, she says: “My father died when I was four years old. My mother had no formal education, but knew the advantages of going to school."
"As determined as she was to take me and my siblings to school, she had little money and faced hostility in my family because she refused to be inherited as a wife to my father’s brother. Moreover, the Somali community was closed and conservative, they did not believe in girls going to school.”
Eventually, however, with the support of local administrators, Fatuma was allowed to go to school. With WFP supporting her school with daily rations of mid-morning porridge, she was able to graduate from Jaribu Primary School. Later on she acquired a Higher University Diploma in Agriculture and Home Economics.
“Education makes a great difference in life,” says Fatuma. “I am able to understand things, and to communicate with anyone. I am able to keep up with emerging issues in the world including politics and health. With my earnings, I can take care of my family as well as my mother, who is aging.”
Fatuma says that in Kenya’s Northeastern Province, the environment is hostile and there are devastating droughts. Moreover, there is little business, poor infrastructure and limited food production. Many children are malnourished.
School meals are very important as they provide something for the children to eat at a critical time in their lives while encouraging girls especially to enrol and stay in school. Many parents get their children to enrol in school so the children can eat something. In the end they emerge with an education.
Fatuma says all this as she works on a computer. Having finished her immediate task, she goes to check on a large general food distribution.