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Monday, January 9, 2017

Somali-Canadian Economist named to Carleton University's '75 for 75'  

Carleton University, a leading university in Ottawa, Canada, recently named Somali-born economist to its list of distinguished alumni.
Abdulqafar Abdullahi, a senior macro-fiscal economist with the World Bank and a member of Ottawa Somali community, is among Carleton Universities '75 for 75'.
To commemorate the institutions 75th anniversary, Carleton University is profiling 75 of it's most distinguished graduates from the Faculty of Public Affairs; releasing five new names every month until June 2017 when a reception will be held for the honorees.
The impressive list of honorees is a cross section of industry leaders and visionaries. It includes the current Mayor of the city of Ottawa, Chief Statistician of Canada, Attorney General of Ontario, Chief Economics Commentator of the Wall Street Journal, the host of CBC's Power and Politics, and Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada to name a few.
Success is a ladder
Mr. Abdullahi immigrated to Canada in 1992 after earning an MBA from Delhi University in India. After completing his studies in India he spent two years in Singapore and Thailand where he worked in various temporary jobs including a part-time teaching position at Assumption University in Bangkok.  Once he arrived Canada, unlike many educated immigrants who came over, Abdullahi was fortunate to have found work in his field.
“Despite the high unemployment rate when I arrived, I resisted in taking a job outside my field, and I was more fortunate than many of my fellow immigrants”.
He worked for Pearson Canada, the largest publisher of textbooks and academic material in Canada. Mr. Abdullahi worked there for seven years, becoming an integral part of the company. He was promoted to Senior Regional Sales and Editorial Representative.
The work gave Mr. Abdullahi the opportunity to travel Canada and the courage and confidence to go back to school.
“Although I was happy with my job in the Publishing industry, I realized a graduate degree from a respected Canadian University would be advantageous in the long run."
Abdulqafar Abdullahi went back to school and earned his Master’s in Economics from Carleton University in 2000. He soon landed a coveted job as an Economist with the Federal Department of Finance. For the next 13 years, he held various senior positions in Federal Government.
Abdulqafar Abdullahi has lived in Ottawa since 1998 and has been a role model for the Somali-Canadian community. As an educator, Mr. Abdullahi taught Economics at Algonquin College for 12 years and has mentored hundreds of Somali university students in Ottawa navigate their career paths.
"When I first started working with the Federal Government, there weren't many Somalis employed there," Abdullahi says as he reflects on his earlier days with the Department of Finance, "the last time I was at Portage (Federal Government office complex) I noticed there were a lot of young Somalis working there. It's great to them progressing with their careers and lives."
Rebuilding a Central Bank from Scratch
An economist by trade and a patriot at heart, Abdullahi sought out to rebuild the fragile Central Bank of Somalia in 2013. He served as a Senior Economic Advisor to the Governor of the Central Bank.
The precarious security situation coupled with personal reasons led to his own resignation from his post and the decision to return to Canada.
However, although he did not know it at the time, he would soon be back working on a plan to fix Somalia's fractured economy.
"Not long after I resigned from the Central Bank of Somalia and on my way to my old job, I received an offer from the World Bank that allowed me to continue to help Somalia in a different capacity."
Today, Abdullahi's position with the World Bank enables him to still work closely on forging an Economic policy for Somalia as the country begins to find its footing.
“I lead the intergovernmental fiscal relations support to Somalia and I am a member of a team that is providing technical support on macro-fiscal issues to the federal and state governments,” he says. “We’re helping Somalia develop its own model of a federal system of government by sharing international experiences and lessons learned from other countries—including lessons I learned while working on Canada’s equalization program.”
Somalia’s Diaspora community has been instrumental in sustaining its economy through remittances flow and investments. Now, Somalia needs the expertise and knowledge of its diaspora community to rebuild its institutions and government systems.
“Many Somalis have gained knowledge and experience and built successful careers in their adopted countries and could make incredible contributions to Somalia today”.

Please visit the  Carleton University's Faculty for Public Affairs for Mr. Abdullahi's full profile.

Friday, January 6, 2017

This photo of Ilhan Omar's swearing-in ceremony shows exactly why representation matters

Ilhan Omar, first Somali-American State Legislator
On Tuesday, Ilhan Omar made history in the United States in more ways than one when she was sworn into the Minnesota House of Representatives: She became the first female Muslim and Somali-American legislator.
Omar, who serves House District 60B in Minnesota, held the Quran during her swearing-in ceremony, becoming the second person to do so after Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim U.S. congressman and contender for DNC chairmanship.
One photo, in particular, shows just how powerful this moment was and exactly why representation matters in the political system today. In this photo, Omar is seen standing tall — donning colorful accessories and her bright orange hijab — among a sea of white faces. This is a historic sight that doesn't come too frequently for young women of color and Muslim Americans, especially in politics.
The U.S. Congress proves just how white, male and Christian dominated some of our political institutions are. The 115th Congress, which was sworn in on Tuesday, is the most diverse yet. Despite this, Congress is still about 80% male, around 80% white and about 8% are non-Christian. This is far from representative of the U.S. when, according to the Washington Post, more than half of Americans are female and white non-Hispanics only make up about 63% of the country's population.
The new Congress includes a record number of 21 women. In addition, women of color serving in the U.S. Senate quadrupled this year with Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) inducted to the U.S. Senate joining Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI).

Why so many Somali-Americans celebrate their birthday on Jan. 1

When Mohamed Cali lived in Somalia, he sometimes saw people blowing out candles on cakes in the Hollywood movies he watched, but he didn’t understand what the practice actually meant.

He wasn’t aware that birthdays mean so much in Western countries that people celebrate them every year — a ritual that is uncommon in the East African nation. “If you don’t celebrate your birthday every year, then it’s tough to remember it,” said Cali, founder and president of a Minneapolis-based Somali-language radio station, KALY 101.7-FM.

But then, in the early 1990s, the U.S. government extended its refugee resettlement program to displaced Somali families fleeing clan-based warfare and droughts that brought them to crowded Kenyan refugee camps.

And it was in one of these camps where Cali filled out his first application to enter the United States, which the federal government requires of refugees entering the country. He had the right answers to most of the questions on the document, except one.
“I knew the year I was born,” said Cali. “But I didn’t know the date and month. [In Somalia], nobody asks your date of birth or your home address or Social Security information to get something.”
To complete the immigration papers, a resettlement official from the United Nations gave Cali Jan. 1 as his legal birth date.

As it turns out, that date is a popular one among refugees worldwide — and in Minnesota, where Cali not only shares his official birthday with many other Somali-Americans, but with many immigrants from places that don’t typically have official birth date records, including countries in East Africa, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

All of which is why thousands of foreign-born Minnesotans turned one year older on New Year’s day, a phenomenon now so common that it draws waves of inside jokes this time of year on social media among the state’s immigrant communities.

Estimated birth dates

Somalis in Minnesota come from diverse backgrounds: Some led a nomadic lifestyle back in Somalia, where people relied mostly on a traditional calendar system for dates; others lived in big cities and towns where people used the 12-month calendar system their entire lives.
Those who came of age outside the cities are most often not familiar with their birth dates. In rural regions, where many people don’t have formal educations, people don’t use the January-December calendar system to record important dates. Instead, they use the four seasons of the year and historic national events as markers of significant dates.

“If someone was born in Abaartii Dabadheer [a major drought that took place in the ‘70s], the nomads would say he or she was born Abaartii Dabadheer,” said Abdulahi Warsame, who runs news programs at KALY radio. “Everybody gets it. And people can translate what that means into the modern calendar.”

Ahmed Ismail Yusuf: “There were a few of us who had driver’s licenses or passports in Somalia. And we all had to make up birth dates on the spot to get those documents.”
In Minnesota, the Somali-Americans who fall into this category are often the community’s oldest generation, who spent the better part of their lives in a nomadic lifestyle. That often means refugee resettlement agencies in the camps assigned them estimated birth dates, which might be a couple of years older or younger than their actual birth dates.

The same is true for Afghans, Sudanese, Ethiopians and Iraqis, according to a 2013 Minnesota Law Review report that noted that more than 200,000 immigrants and refugees in the U.S. have Jan. 1 as their date of birth. “These approximated birth dates allow the government to administer benefits and track and control immigration flow,” Ross Pearson wrote in the report, “but they lack both certainty and accuracy.”

Few records

For Somalis, there are also historical reasons for the lack of accurate dates of birth. In the early 1960s — when Somalia gained its independence — more people emigrated to cities and town across the country for access to education, transportation and employment. As a result, many in the country began to rely on the Western calendar system for work and school schedules as well as for holiday vacations.

Yet the impoverished Somali government didn’t have adequate social institutions that documented birth dates or issued certificates for new babies. On top of that — like many countries in the developing world — most citizens of the country didn’t have official identification cards and driver’s licenses, said Ahmed Ismail Yusuf, author of “Somalis in Minnesota.”

“There were a few of us who had driver’s licenses or passports in Somalia,” Yusuf added. “And we all had to make up birth dates on the spot to get those documents. Everybody knew they weren’t real. Even government officials knew about that.”

In some cases, though, parents kept personal files and photos of their children’s births. Others kept archives of radio announcements, which has long been common in the country when a couple gets married or a child is born.

But when the civil war broke out in 1991, many families — like Cali’s — lost those documents as they crossed oceans or walked for weeks to find stability in neighboring countries. “Nobody was concerned about IDs or birth information,” Cali said. “People were in survival mode. They didn’t have the luxury to talk about when they were born. They were busy working to stay alive.”

Birthday celebrations take hold in America

Today, however, young people in Minnesota’s Somali-American community pay as much attention to birthday celebrations as their non-Somali counterparts.

Yusuf, who has a 10-year-old U.S.-born son, said his child never misses a birthday.

“The kids and their parents live in two completely different worlds,” he said. “My son counts down to his birthday every single year. Many years back, I used to laugh at him when I heard him or other people talk about birthday parties or celebrations.”

Cali, whose children were also born in the U.S., said his kids also celebrate their birthdays — and he celebrates with them: He takes them out to eat and buys them gifts. “I still get confused about their dates,” he said of his eight kids, who were mostly born in March, April and May. “The only way I can remember is to look at their documents.”

And today, the combination of America's preoccupation with celebrations and the commonality of Jan. 1 birthdays has led to a predictable phenomenon. The first day of each year, messages poking fun at Somali-Americans with New Year's Day birthdays blanket Facebook and Twitter feeds.
As one Twitter commenter noted Sunday: “Happy birthday to every Somali on earth.”

Source: MinnPost