Muna Mohamed Hassan, a mother of six, graduated from university in Somaliland with a public health degree on 14 September, despite the refusal of her husband and family to support her in her educational ambition.

“I was told to choose between my marriage and the university!” Muna declared.

“You know the elders always side with the men when they mediate. The elders from both sides met and decided I should stop my studies and obey my husband. I approached my husband and told him to give me my divorce papers, as I was determined to study.”

She borrowed $220 from a female relative and enrolled in Tima-ade university in Gebiley in 2015.

Muna, 32, said the elders asked her husband to allow her to study, but he angrily stopped paying the extra money he gave her for shopping in an attempt to pressure her into dropping out of university.

Further emboldened, she wrote to the local government administration at the end of her first semester requesting a scholarship. She was among five students awarded scholarships for the rest of her course.

Muna had three children when she enrolled and her family grew during her studies. She took maternity breaks that prolonged her study period by two years.

“I was pregnant with my fourth child when I joined the university. I used to take breaks from the university during my pregnancies. There were times I used to leave the class mid-way to go home to breastfeed my baby,” said Muna.

She used to leave the children with a relative who lived with her in close proximity to the university.

Muna told Radio Ergo that she was excited by her academic achievement, which she would not have achieved if she had given in to her husband and society’s disapproval.

“People asked me, why do you want to join university when you have a husband and children to take care of? What is it that you are missing? But I found it inappropriate to sit back at home when I had studied up to form four,” she said.

Muna urged Somali women to further their studies instead of staying at home doing household chores. She argued that a mother is the first teacher of her children and that educating a woman educates a community.

“Today, I can diagnose my children’s illness and buy them the appropriate medicine. I can also apply for jobs and be an independent woman,” said Muna.

In the end, she explained, her husband and family came round to accepting her choice and even attended her graduation ceremony.  She is now actively seeking a job in her area of study.

Radio Ergo reached out to Muna’s husband, Mustafa Hashi Muhumed, who said he was very proud to witness his wife and the mother of his six children graduate from university.

“I am proud of her. It has been a long journey, but finally she has graduated. Her education means a lot to us as a family. She can now even help us financially, once she starts working,” Mustafa said.