Diaspora communities contribute to development in countries of origin in various ways: they transfer money to families and friends who did not migrate, or they could share knowledge and new ideas with communities in their country of origin. In the latter case, the diaspora member’s language skills, cultural understandings, and direct ties to countries of origin make it easier for them to share new ideas and insights. CD4D supports the transfer of these so-called ‘social remittances’ by facilitating short-term assignments at host institutions in countries of origin.
As such, diaspora expert Samira Hussein applied for an assignment in Somaliland to provide legal advice to the Minister of Justice. During the assignment, she worked on an alternative dispute resolution policy, provided recommendations with regard to reporting youth criminality, and supported the development of a national framework for prison inspections and the monitoring thereof. Moreover, she notes that she was able to challenge the status quo at the host institution by sharing her views on some traditional perceptions.
Samira was inspired by her father to contribute to development in Somaliland. “When I lived in the United Kingdom, my dad went back to Somaliland because he saw that there was a need for doctors. That is when he started his practice to rebuild the country. I came to Somaliland with a similar motivation; I wanted to use my knowledge to serve the country. In addition, my personal goal was to work on my communication in Somali at a professional level. Moreover, I found it interesting to work on cases that are ethically more difficult. This experience definitely contributed to that”.
The assignment in Somaliland went well for both Samira and the Ministry. Samira contributed to successful projects and challenged the status quo. “I noticed that various people in top positions have some old-fashioned ideas about how certain cases should be addressed. Through opening the conversation with them, they changed their minds or at least listened”. Despite the overall success of her assignment, she also sees room for further improvements with regards to gender equality. “What I noticed, however, is that there were no women in key positions. This is not something which can be changed overnight, but it is nevertheless something I had to fight for”. Samira’s story thus illustrates the impact of new ideas and perspectives held by diaspora communities.
On a more personal level, the assignment at the Ministry of Justice was a pleasant experience for Samira. “I have been warmly welcomed by the people here and in the Ministry, and I was able to contribute while working on my personal goals”. Samira’s experiences show that diaspora engagement for the purpose of development is a win-win situation; as a member of the Somali diaspora, Samira enjoyed the connection to Somaliland, while the host institution benefitted from her knowledge and ideas.