By: Farah Aden

Celebratory Somali music blaring, colourful dresses sparkling, photographers flooding the scene. This was the atmosphere at the Maansoor Hotel hall at 8:30am on Thursday 12th October in Hargeisa, Somaliland. What a way to start the day! This splendid venue, with its white, gold and green drapes and waiters in bow-ties, was quickly filling up with family and friends, some of whom had travelled from far, to applaud the graduates of the Edna Adan University. Cabinet members were already seated in the front row VIP seats, keen to congratulate the future change-makers of Somaliland. Among them were the Minister of Family Planning, the Minister of Livestock and the Director General of the Ministry of Higher Education. Ethiopian and Djiboutian ambassadors eagerly took their seats and soon, the red carpet was rolled for none other than His Excellency the Vice President of the Republic of Somaliland, Abdirahman Mohamed Ismail Saylici. I had never witnessed a graduation ceremony with so many distinguished guests; I was bursting with excitement.

The ceremony began with all members of the audience standing and singing the national anthem of Somaliland. Pride resonated throughout the great hall: pride for their nation and pride for their graduates. Speakers took it in turns to extend their warm congratulations to the graduates and encourage them to use their skills and knowledge to help the nation of Somaliland progress. With young women and men graduating from the faculties of nursing, midwifery, dentistry, veterinary studies, public health and laboratory studies, speakers rejoiced in the ever-improving quality of healthcare in Somaliland. Edna Adan Ismail, Chancellor of the University, emphasised the importance of respect, professionalism and perseverance. Furthermore, she encouraged all graduates to contribute positively to the future of Somaliland by all voting in the upcoming elections. In turn, the Vice President of Somaliland thanked Edna Adan for her unwavering commitment to improving the lives of Somalilanders by educating young adults. Speeches were interrupted by rapturous applauses throughout the morning.

Special awards were presented to hospitals including Hargeisa Group Hospital, Mohamed Adan Sheikh Hospital, Manhal Hospital, Hargeisa Neurology Hospital, Royal Care Hospital, Abdi Idan MCH and Mohamed Mooge MCH. In addition, doctors were recognised for their tireless work in training healthcare students and providing quality service to Somalilanders. Moreover, the top graduate in French studies was invited to the podium to make a speech in French in which he congratulated all graduates on their hard work throughout the years, and thanking all members of staff and his family. I had been asked to interpret this speech into English, and as I stood there before the audience, I could see their beaming faces and feel the boundless energy of empowered graduates.

Towards the end of the ceremony, graduates were called up to the stage to receive their certificate. Proud fathers stood up to applaud their daughters, tears in their eyes. Mothers went up with their toddlers wearing T-shirts reading ‘Congratulations mummy’. Graduates had colour-coordinated themselves according to their faculty, making the overall aesthetics even more outstanding. 73% of graduates were women, constituting a real achievement for Somaliland, where women’s education had previously been neglected. I was honoured to witness this milestone, and must admit I also became quite emotional.
As the morning drew to a close, graduates rushed to get a photo with the woman who started it all, the woman I am truly lucky to work with, the woman who inspired young Somalilanders to truly make a difference: Edna Adan Ismail.