Somaliland: From Kat-Seller to a Medical Doctor


A Model of Determination and Courage

Khat Seller not Dr Hodan

By: Abdirahman Adan Mohamoud

Somalilandsun – In this vastly-growing world, we often hear stories about inspiring people. We read tales from rags to riches, from school drop outs to highly successful software programmers, to chief executives and presidents. The below story, is not less interesting, I hope, than those heralded in the leading Newspapers and best seller books.

Dr. Hodan Jama is a mother of 7 children and she happily lives with her husband along with their children in Borama town. As they were a low-income family, both Hodan and her husband had to work together to win against the odds of life and hence Dr. Hodan had to go out and do petty activities to help her family survive.

Determined to come up with a long lasting solution to her family’s financial constraints, Dr.

Hodan decided to continue and intensify her struggle towards a decent living for the family.

To achieve this goal, this struggle took her to many spectrums of life. It took her to tough occupations and trying circumstances. In order to help meet basic education needs of her children, she started to work at Annallena Tonneli TB Hospital as a focal point for the fight against Female Genital Mutilation and then Borama Regional Hospital as an auxiliary nurse.

While she was there, she intensified the realization of her childhood dream in which she fantasized about becoming a medical doctor and helping women and children obtain access to health services.

However, still her earning could not suffice her family basic needs; therefore, she opted for selling Kat in the streets of Borama to supplement their meager income. Generally, female-

headed families are often involved in Kat- selling and they are repeatedly subjected to bad debt, countless mal-treatment as well as discrediting one’s dignity and Hodan was not an exception. She nevertheless tolerated all these unscrupulous and humiliating acts for the sake of her family.

Though her time was primarily preoccupied with helping her husband secure livelihood of her family, she never gave up her strong desire for further education. In an effort to enhance her competency, she consequently joined different schools. She registered a Diploma program at Amoud Agriculture School, which was at the time supported by a foreign NGO.

Later on, she would also earn another Diploma in Business Administration from Amoud University.

Interestingly, she earned these certificates while she was selling Kat! As an extra-curricular activity, she was also a founding member of Africa Youth Development Association (AYODA), one of the most successful and prominent local organizations in Borama. However, the fundamental change of her life took place when she managed to enroll at the medical school of Amoud University. Students with high grades are only eligible to register in this faculty, thus competition was understandably high.

Furthermore, one would not miss to realistically assess the burden shouldered on a normal medical student, not to mention the additional family responsibilities left on such a daring and determined parent. Yet, she skillfully managed to simultaneously continue her studies successfully and take care of her family to the best of her ability.

khat selling and chewing is big income bizness

After seven years of successfully balancing the complex pressure of a mother with seven children and the challenging and demanding study schedule, she succeeded to graduate with honor. In the graduation ceremony, dressed in graduation gowns, she attracted the hearts and minds of the attendees as her well-dressed children and her husband, were proudly sitting next to her in a cheerful mood.

It was a moment she truly deserved to see! Ceremony attendees, perhaps admiring her accomplishment, honored her with standing ovation and prolonged applause.

It is, nevertheless, very rare to see a young mother with these wonderful achievements. Her resilience and determination are the magnet-like features that engrossed the attention of those who were present or have heard her story. Unlike many Somali fathers, her husband truly demonstrated a sense of parenthood and seriousness as he encouraged her to continue studies and more importantly, provided the required material and moral support to her.

It is very unusual to see a mother with seven children but yet going to school, let alone a mother like Dr. Hodan, with her multiple responsibilities and achievements. Paradoxically, in this case, we have a female medical student who was once making her families’ earnings from Kat-selling and at the same time was the second bread-winner of her relatively extended family; a combination seldom observed.

In conclusion, this is a wake-up call to everyone particularly to women. Dr. Hodan is a model of courage and determination. Her journey is unique but doable by others too. And this is a good lesson to all. Above all, we have learnt from her, what matters to make change in your life is to have a well-defined target, persistent determination and hard work. Anyone can replicate this and do the same if they are committed!

Her fantasy in the near future is to offer greater help to the needy people, predominantly women and children and as such contribute to the betterment of health services. For this reason, she is presently doing her specialization in Family Medicine at Amoud’s Medical School.


1. I would Abdirahman Aadanlike to express my gratitude to Dr. Hodan Jama for accepting our request to publish her story and share it with readers. My appreciation also goes to Mohamed-

Deeq Omer for conducting the interview and providing coordination support.

2. This story is part of a series of “Untold Stories” that the afore-mentioned writer periodically publishes to unveil the local unsung talents. Other articles of this series include, The Dean of Shoe-shiners and The Resilient Medical Student. Untold stories are a bilingual series that can be available at, both in Somali and English languages.

Abdirahman Adan Mohamoud