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Djibouti’s first lady, Kadra Mohamoud Haida, has been a strong advocate for empowering women.  In an exclusive interview with Capital the First Lady discuss how organizations, like the National Union of Djibouti Women, are working to end gender based violence and the contributions that everyone must make to further development.

Capital:  Would you please tell us about your life growing up and your educational background?
Kadra Mohamoud Haida:
I was raised just as any Djiboutian child. My parents were very strict and respected traditions and cultures. They brought me up with love and care teaching me about respecting, honoring and obeying parents. Then I joined a Girls’ School established by the Catholic Church.
At the time the communities were conservative, however, they were keen to send girls to school.
The school had a strict educational system and it was during my stay there I managed to give prime attention to education and figure out my life path.
I strongly believe that education is instrumental in creating a firm society and strong mothers. Education is key towards economic growth.
During that time the number of schools were limited and I can say that I was fortunate to attend classes in such a school.
I believe that education on gender equality needs to be provided to males and females and both need to be given an equal opportunity to learn in order to make the future of Djibouti bright.
When I became a school teacher later on, I got the opportunity to witness the importance of education and the difference it makes in the life of an individual.
Today I can see how my students are serving their country and I am proud of that.
Capital: Would you please tell us about issues facing Djiboutian women?
Kadra:
It would be presumptuous of me to speak for all Djiboutian women as we all have our own paths in life and thus our own way of seeing and doing things are different. But I can say that the Djiboutian women are very strong and they are the pillars of our country. They have always been at the forefront of all the struggles of our nation. They are the ones who shoulder all the family burdens.
Capital:  What do you think are the challenges and constraints that Djiboutian women are facing in their efforts towards development? What is your role in the struggle of Djiboutian women in preventing harmful traditional practices such as Female genital mutilation (FGM), to contain the spread of HIV and halt malnutrition?
Kadra:
The Djiboutian women are the ones, who take care of the whole family. Be it a child or a spouse, we are trying to lessen their burden as much as we can through the National Union of Women of Djibouti (UNFD). At the UNFD we provide counseling services to women exposed to domestic violence and lead the campaign against FGM, which is now forbidden by law in our country.
With regards to those physically impaired, we have now set up a school for children with hearing impairments.
We also developed an orphanage center specifically designed for abandoned babies in 2011. The center is the first of its kind in Djibouti and there are laws that would allow the children to be adopted by families. Additionally, we provide training to girls that have dropped out of school.
Capital: What was your feeling when you knew that your husband became president?
Kadra:
My husband used to participate in political affairs and shouldered different responsibilities. They increased after he became president. Now he is responsible for the whole country and this is not an easy task. It is an all-consuming responsibility.
My feeling was and still is that I hope God gives us guidance and helps us try to contribute our share to discharge the responsibility. I have full confidence in my husband’s capabilities, but it certainly is not a one-man job. So we all need to play our parts. Whether you are a president or a school teacher like I used to be, all that remains is what we contribute and that will be our legacy.
Capital: It has long been said that “behind every successful man, there is a strong, wise and hardworking woman.”  What is your comment on this?
Kadra:
Too often people take the statement that “behind every successful man, there is a great woman” to mean that women’s role is behind the curtain and that they can only be great through their husbands. However, in my opinion, every successful person needs a great partner in life. Whether you are a man or a woman having a partner that you trust, shares your concerns and helps you lessen burdens makes it easier to focus on your career.
Capital:  What are the aspirations and dreams you have for your country? Which of these desires have been fulfilled?
Kadra:
I can only speak about myself. My desire is for Djibouti to continue becoming prosperous. I hope that every Djiboutian lives in peace and it is my desire to see more strengthened peace and stability in Djibouti. Not only this but I have aspirations to eradicate poverty and eliminate illiteracy.
I hope our women continue building tomorrow’s Djibouti.