SOMALIA—Nasra Haji Hussain Ibrahim isn’t your typical Somali teenager. At 18, she’s Somalia’s first female mechanic. In a country known for its youth unemployment, Ibrahim has turned her passion into a way to support her family—breaking down archaic stereotypes along the way.
Ibrahim was one of the speakers at TedxMogadishu, a conference that took place in early April and which, despite lingering security concerns in the city, managed to bring together a group of talented and driven Somalis together to share their inspiring stories.
We spoke to Ibrahim about her experience working in a male-dominated industry and her hopes for the future. Read our conversation below and watch the virtual reality video—Somalia’s first— to see Ibrahim’s world close-up.
This interview has been translated from Somali.
OkayAfrica: How has working as a mechanic changed how you see yourself?
Nara Ibrahim: First of all, I am a working girl. I work as a mechanic to change the life of my family and my own. I see myself as an role model to other girls in Somalia and the whole world.
OKA: What has your family and community’s reaction been to the the job and the reaction to it from places like TEDx.
NI: My family’s feelings and reactions have been very welcoming since the start. They told me that their prayers were accepted and they knew that I am going to be very special. The community around me were very surprised when they learned that I am a female mechanic because of the environment we live in and the society didn’t see something similar before, maybe it is because of the conservativeness or the civil wars our country went through.
OKA:What do you envision in your future? In Somalia’s future?
NI: I hope, in the future, to become well known in a positive way and I need everyone to respect me and my initiative. I also hope that my country rises again and becomes great with the help of its people, especially the younger generation—including me. I am very ready to do what it takes to partake in that movement to seek the peace and justice to all Somalis.
OKA:What advice would you have for young girls anywhere trying to figure out how to break through into traditionally male areas.
NI: I advise my fellow young sisters in Somalia and the world in general to believe in their strength and leave behind their fears and ignore anyone who is against their development, and I tell them that they have all the energy, dreams and goals and they can achieve everything.
OKA:What kinds of interests do you have outside work and family? Do you have a favorite musical artist/writer/poet?
NI: When I finish my shifts and go home I go to my own private space, a corner in our house and I start writing stuff, I also read some books and listen to the stories of successful people through out history. Some of the most interesting stories that caught my attention were the biographies of Bill Gates’ and Mark Zuckerberg. I listen to national/patriotic Somali music very often. I am a big fan of the Somali poet Hadrawii.