Fire and Gold: Helping Somali Youth Make Wise Financial Decisions

IDD | EDC | News Photo

Where there are no functioning banks, no interest charged or paid, and financial transactions can involve bartered bags of salt or sugar left for nomadic dairy farmers at a desert crossroads, what does financial literacy mean? Young Somali men and women are finding out thanks to an innovative program of Education Development Center.

In its efforts to reach and equip Somali youth with employability and life skills, the Somali Youth Livelihood Program, or Shaqodoon, developed Dab iyo Dahab, an Interactive Audio Instruction (IAI) series on financial literacy specifically tailored for that population.

Shaqodoon recently launched and demonstrated Dab iyo Dahab at a celebration in Hargeisa. Shaqodoon, its partner organizations, members of the private sector, and government officials participated in the event, marking the initial rollout of the program to 1,262 youth trainees in Somaliland, Puntland, and Central Somalia.

Tradition and Innovation

Featuring dramas and expert interviews, each episode encourages a high level of student interactivity to promote effective learning among small groups of youth who gather to listen. Additionally, a cellular audio bonus segment allows listening groups to dial in, listen to questions about the day’s episode, and answer using the phone’s keypad.

“The traditional use of the story to educate linked with technology is a powerful combination,” said EDC’s Paul Sully, a youth expert and participant in the launch event. “The interactive audio response via cell phones will incentivize and excite youth about the learning process.”

For Somalis, storytelling is a way of learning; it’s handed down through generations, and is used to transfer valuable insight and knowledge across time. Somalis respect stories for the information they contain and are accustomed to listening and learning, Shaqodoon uses this tradition of listening and learning to pass the story of Financial Literacy to learners. The objective is simple: to create a story so relevant and interesting that the listener is pulled into the drama and the lessons are learned by listening to and critically evaluating the actions of the characters.  

Responding to real challenges

Pre-production focus groups and a limited life cycle analysis yielded a large amount of information about what kind of financial decisions Somalis make and when they are asked to make them. Respondents overwhelmingly agreed that marriage was the first time that young people make their own decisions and often find themselves with difficult financial problems. With this in mind, the financial literacy storyline revolves around a newly married couple in their early 20s who struggle with a wide range of financial challenges. The main characters of the storyline represent the different Somali regions, and the title Dab iyo Dahab refers to the concepts of fire (conflict) and gold (wealth) that can be destructive if not managed.

Dab iyo Dahabutilizes proven educational methodology that employs facilitated listening groups, frequent review of prior lessons and queries to the groups to test their recall and learning. The production of this audio series is supported by the United States Agency for International Development and through it expands Shaqodoon’s efforts to address work readiness life skills and technical training to improve youth livelihood options. It also expands Education Development Center’s use of technology in its educational programming. Dab iyo Dahab will soon be followed by a similar audio program on entrepreneurship.

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