Caught in between – Neither Here Nor There

You might be wondering, what relevance does fidhi ku dirir hold for these men. To understand that, we must first understand that Somalia is a clan-based society. People trace their connections to each other based on which clan they belong to. Regardless of where in the world they reside, Somalis always make an effort to maintain strong clan-based relationships with their community members. Also, with families and relatives back home still going through clan-based conflicts and certain regions of the country experiencing political destabilisation, men become very invested, very passionate about keeping up with all ins and outs of Somali politics. It’s the thread that connects them to their culture; Past, present and future.

This topic is perplexing because one would assume that it would make more sense to be invested in the politics of the country they’ve resettled to as these political decisions impact their daily lives and the future of their children. However, the problem is these men (like most Somali parents) do not feel connected to the cultures of their host country. They have hope that one day Somalia will return back to its prosperous days and they will be able to go back with their children.  The expectation is that life will return to the way it was prior to the civil war; back to a society where men reigned control of their homes and the public sphere. That their honour, dignity and manhood will be restored as they assume back their responsibilities.

The Barriers to Fulfilling Financial Responsibilities

Once they migrate to western countries, the barriers they’re faced with can make it difficult for them to execute their traditional roles within the family. Often times having spent many years in refugee camps, their qualifications and work history back in Somali are not recognized in the new country which makes it challenging for them to find employment. They must start from scratch; Learning a new language, gaining work experience, learning to live in a new culture, all whilst facing discrimination on the basis of race and religion as well as social and community exclusion from the mainstream society. They experience a huge lack of support especially with learning to navigate through new systems. Not being able to fulfil the financial responsibilities they owe to their family can be demoralising and make it even more difficult for them to fully contribute to the economies of the countries that hosted them.  Once again, Fadhi ku dirir becomes almost like a form of escape from reality.

However, the reality of the truth is that access to government assistance also diminishes some people’s motivation to obtain employment. Perhaps the question we need to ask ourselves as Somali people living in the diaspora is how do we get out of the survival mode we seem to be so stuck on? How do we thrive in a new land filled with opportunities? How do we heal from past traumas and envision a better future for ourselves and our children? 

The reason most of us migrated was to start a new life, in a more peaceful country and give the next generation access to opportunities so that one day, they can grow up to be better leaders who help rebuild Somalia. I believe that it takes a certain level of personal responsibility to recognize that the government provides financial assistance to ease the pressures of adjusting to a new life in a foreign country, not for people who are capable of working to become dependent on it long-term. The end goal has always been to help people become active members of society who make an independent living and can contribute to the best of their ability. Unfortunately, contrary to Somali women who are willing to work entry-level jobs, some Somali men tend to display pride and avoid jobs that they deem is unfitting for someone of their calibre. E.g. a man who worked in a field such as business management in Somalia might hold his standards of employment in the new country to be equivalent to that level. This is unrealistic unless he’s willing to obtain a new qualification, experience and work his way up the career ladder.

Moving Forward

Overall, the key message here is as a collective, we need to be sensitive to the unique challenges men face and recognise the complexity of this issue. Sometimes, we’re quick to judge a person’s choices without identifying or truly understanding the root cause of the issues they face. For instance, we’ve learnt that the roots of Fadhi ku dirir stretches a lot deeper than just an activity done out of laziness and selfishness. We have a lot of unlearning to do as a community; Increasing our mental health literacy, reducing the stigma behind the western treatment of mental illnesses (including therapy and medication) and perhaps to some degree we need to reconceptualise traditional gender roles. We should also set in place practical measures to tackle the huge lack of opportunity and support in our community. It would benefit us to look to other migrant communities that are making exceptional progress and use that as an inspiration. As a community, we need to push forward the importance of us too making progress in the countries that we resettle to.

Most western countries including Australia have resources and services which target CALD communities and are specifically designed to help people heal through trauma. When refugees arrived in Australia in the early 2000s, mental health services weren’t incorporated into the resettlement process which is why a lot of people fell through the cracks. However, in our current time, these services can help men with all their psycho-social needs, teach them to manage their mental health better as well as connecting them to suitable employment, (if they are willing to accept the help and be actively involved in the process). It’s up to us as a community to increase our knowledge of these services and take responsibility in healing from the traumatic experiences of the past before it becomes a cycle of intergenerational trauma.

If you have reached the end of this post, thank you for taking the time to read it all. If you have any comments, leave them down below. Stay tuned for upcoming posts.

The Conscious Nomad

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