Maria Noor Ahmed: From school dropout to dream come true

In honor of International Women's Day, FilmAid celebrates alumna Maria Noor Ahmed's accomplishments as a journalist and filmmaker. Read her own words below.

Maria at FilmAid Film Festival in Dadaab Refugee Camp, Kenya

Maria at FilmAid Film Festival in Dadaab Refugee Camp, Kenya

I was born in Somalia, but my mother moved to Dadaab in 1998 when I was only one year old. I’m the last born in a family of four which my mum takes care of single handedly.

In 2005 I was enrolled in Primary school but dropped out to assist my mother with the household chores. My siblings fetch water and firewood.

After dropping out of school I stayed at home for a while but later, joined Youth Education Pack (Y.E.P) which is supported by the Norwegian Refugee Council, NRC. I took part in a one year course in journalism. After graduating I took a job at Risaala F.M Radio Station as a reporter.

While working at Risaala Radio Station I heard that FilmAid was advertising their Film Training Program for youth. Having had a passion for filmmaking, I went to the FilmAid field office in Hagadera to seek more information about the training. When I looked at the requirements, K.C.S.E certificate [high school graduation certificate] was one of them and unfortunately I did not have it since I’m a class seven dropout. I felt hopeless but my family told me to apply and inform FilmAid that I didn’t have a secondary school certificate but had successfully completed a one year journalism course.

‘Alhamdulillah’ [Thanks to Allah] after a week I was called for the interview and to me it was a dream come true. I was both happy and nervous at the same time. I felt like I had passed the interview already. During the interview I agreed to commit myself fully and focus on the training, so I told my boss about it and he permitted me to proceed with my plans.

From the FTP training I learnt how to direct a film, use a camera, edit films, write scripts, do casting, select film locations and also train others on the same. In all the topics, editing was fun and came naturally to me though I liked spending time with the camera.

Currently I’m working as a Senior Presenter at Risaala F.M in Dadaab, my duties are to record short films, edit, report and present news. I also empower other youth with my skills by training them on Film and Journalism at Hagadera Journalism School on a volunteer basis.

I would like to go back to school and get the secondary school certificate but the issue of repatriation is a hindrance to my plans. Despite what I go through, InshaAllah [God willing] I will achieve my goal; to see more girls socio-economically empowered and an informed community for adaptive and positive behavior that will enable them to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life.

I would urge all agencies in Dadaab to reach out to more girls and women with skills-based approach to build their capacity and also urge girls to take courses and attend trainings like journalism and filmmaking even if there are challenges. In the next 3 years I would like to work for a national radio or T.V station and also start a Film/journalism school for girls.    

Written by: Maria Noor Ahmed. Hagadera Refugee Camp in Dadaab, Kenya.

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