Written by 7:28 am Opinion

Why are Somali Boys less likely to succeed as compared to the Girls in the Diaspora?

Abdi Mohamud



Following the turmoil created by the 1991 civil war, Somalis left their country in great numbers. Most of them went to the neighbouring countries, namely Kenya and Ethiopia, while others in their thousands made their way to Europe and North America. Canada, the US, and the UK were their preferred destinations. There may be above 100,000 living in each one of these countries. There are also sizable and noticeable Somali populations in many other European countries particularly in Western Europe and Scandinavian countries. It is hard to know the exact number of Somali living in any given country because different sources give starkly different numbers. People usually rely on numbers produced by census agencies which declare the Somali population figures far below the actual numbers of Somalis living in different European and North American countries. It is likely that many Somalis do not participate in their respective countries’ censuses. For instance, in Canada, the 2021 census put Somalis in Toronto at 24,760, but UPG North America using the Access to Information Act found that over 56,700 Somalis lived in Toronto when the 2021 census was taken. That is a huge difference. Similarly, American Community Survey 2020 found that about 140,000 Somalis call the US home. That number may also be inaccurate because other sources estimate that 80,000 Somalis are in Minneapolis alone. In Sweden, 70,000 Somalis live there according to the 2021 census, while in the UK, it is believed that the number is well over 100,000. And it is the same story in many countries in Europe.


It is important to note the Somali populations in different countries to have an idea of the respective communities’ strengths, vibrancy and cohesion. It is equally important to measure or pay attention to their participation and level of engagements in politics, business, education and so on. And no better group will shed brighter light on these matters than the young folks who grew up or were born in the west. These young folks are in their twenties and thirties now. The expectation is that many of them have graduated from universities, started their own businesses or are employed in their respective professions, and have even begun getting married and having families. Expectation in success in these age groups has always been higher because of the opportunities available to them. They have grown up in the most advanced countries in the world where all things to aid their success are available in abundance: good environment to live in, good education systems, job opportunities, healthcare, and so on.


Despite all these great things that would propel one to greater heights, it turns out that our young folks have not lived to expectations. The girls have done so well while the boys have not. Girls are flying high and making big splashes in many areas. They are in politics, academia, and in business climbing corporate ladders higher. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and the Mayor of South Portland, Maine, Deqa Dhalac are notables among the successful Somali women in the US and elsewhere. Their courage, intensity and dedication have surprised many across the political spectrum and racial divide. They have inspired a fair amount of Somalis who have recently sought public office at national, state, and municipal elections in the US. Success in political circles in the diaspora led by women are also evident and documented in the Nordic countries and other places in Europe.


Boys are lagging  behind women counterparts in many areas. Unfortunately, boys have chosen to take paths that are, in many cases, dangerous and dead-end. Considerable numbers of them drop out of school and get involved in illicit activities that lead them into run-ins with the law. They join gang groups, start selling drugs, resort to carjacking, gun robbery, and commit other horrendous crimes. They often murder and eliminate each other, which usually happens when one group ventures into another group’s turf or when other things go awry. The outlaws, Somali Mafia, and many others have taken control of Cedar-Riverside areas in Minneapolis. Inhabitants who are mostly Somalis are in constant fear. It is not a surprise to hear gun fires or see bullet holes in residential building walls. In Toronto, like in Minneapolis, there exist deadly gang groups who cause nightmares and sleeplessness to many parents in the Dixon area. The parents are always worried about their sons being imprisoned, disappearing, or killed. Many parents are also in constant dread, anxiety, and fear of their teen boys being recruited by the ruthless Dixon Road Bloods and other groups that operate in their neighbourhoods. You may also be familiar with the knife crimes in the UK perpetuated by gang groups there. The knife gangs stab people to death and also cause havoc in the UK Somali community. In Sweden, they also have what is known as the Death Squad. One member of that group was sentenced to life imprisonment by a Danish court in 2021. Mohamed Ali, a 23 year old Somali-Swede, was found guilty of double murder. Similar orgies of crimes committed by young Somali men are dealt with across Europe and North America. The death rate is alarming and it is an unending calamity. People are even unsafe in the mosques and other holy places. No human conscience, law, or social norm is strong enough to convince them to not desecrate the holy places and spare the mortals in them from brutalities.


Many, brilliant, energetic, young Somali men have met death at an early age. Families have been devastated and unable to come to terms to the sudden loss of their loved ones. This gang culture has affected all communities and almost all families. Even those with wealth, financial means, education and so on have not escaped this plague. People, both Somalis and non-Somalis, are questioning what lures Somali boys to the underworld and criminal lifestyle. Some suggest it is the poor neighbourhoods they live in. Others blame the big family sizes, arguing the parents have no ability to properly raise and care for so many kids.

In the 1970s and 80s, Dixon was populated by immigrants from the Caribbean, India and other Asian countries. No reports indicating that they had encountered the same misfortune as that has befallen the Somalis that settled in the area from early 1990s. The same story holds true in Cedar Riverside neighbourhoods of Minneapolis. Gang violence had not been a big problem before the Somalis settled in the early 1990s. So this negates the notion that those locations are particularly conducive for crimes and criminal activities.


It seems the second hypothesis has some relevance as to why our young men are susceptible to a criminal lifestyle. It may not be ideal to raise six or seven children in a two bedroom apartment. There is no doubt that such an environment does not meet the comfort and serenity level sought and desired by the occupants. Some also allude that lower income is a factor that drives boys to the underworld business at an early age. This could be untrue because the boys from well-off families join gang groups as well. Thus the low income scenario does not represent the whole truth. So what is the problem then?


Although I have not seen in-depth, credible research on the matter, my observations have led me to believe many parents do not consciously craft plans to keep their boys busy all the time. Regular sports and nature activities as well as other fun-filled undertakings appeal to youngsters, boost their confidence, and enhance their self esteem. Equally, a great number of parents attach no value to many activities that can be done and participated in by the whole family at home. Playing cards together, reading books, building legos and similar things play an important role in creating a healthy family environment and bringing up disciplined and law-abiding children. To raise children requires energy, time, commitment and resources. It is a long term process with ups and downs. To get everything to fall in place requires a lot of work and awareness. Fathers are often blamed  for playing significant roles in their boys’ lives. Instead of focusing on the wellbeing of their families, they pursue other interests in politics, business or work. Some fathers go to work mostly in Somalia and the Middle East. In many cases, these fathers choose to go away when there is a greater need for them to stay with their families. Some even move to different cities and towns of the same countries as their families live in. Others spend much time in cafes and on khat-chewing and socializing.


Apart from the family efforts, community cohesion and work are also essential for raising healthy and successful kids.Community should come together and provide spaces where kids can do things with one another. Parents should plan and supervise what programs will benefit their children. All activities done at home and more can also be done at community centres. Indoor sports such as pools, pingpong, and others deemed of interest to the kids can be played there. Consistent and sustained efforts at family as well as community level are what can save our boys from the treacherous trajectory they often find themselves on. There is no laying back or telling useless stories in cafes when your children are yearning for company and care. All parents, especially fathers, have to be aware of their responsibilities of supporting and guiding their children in an effective and meaningful manner.




There is no question that there is a serious repercussion for the diaspora communities when their boys choose to take wrong paths. They abandon and neglect their parents, siblings, and even the children they father. If they escape death and long term imprisonments, they always remain scum and dregs away from the centre. They will be unable to lead normal lives where they can have families or keep steady jobs. In these circumstances, it is unlikely that the communities will prosper, retain their identity and culture, as well as be closely-knit. We are approaching a crisis level because many girls cannot find suitable male partners. An established, educated girl cannot trust, start a family with and have a long term relationship with a drug dealer or a convict.  If things remain the way they are now, our communities will disappear within a short time. There will be no trace of us after two or utmost three generations.




Reversing the situation is possible but there is no easy fix. This boys’ problem has been around for a while but not remedied yet. I believe the most important step will be to recognize the existence of the problem and its ramifications for diaspora communities. Step two will be to put plans, including the ones detailed above, in place to tackle the issue head on. Sports activities, mentoring, teaching leadership skills and instilling them with a sense of responsibility and community will be central to building solid communities and leaving legacies. Young people must be trained and prepared to have the ability to look after themselves and to lead. There should also be community centres that can meet multifaceted needs of community members. Our mosques are usually prayer spaces. The notion of utilizing mosques for prayers only should be abandoned. They should have many functionalities to be places of worship, sports, community, and so on. So to realize this, mosques should be retrofitted. Concerted, sustained effort by the communities will be essential to achieve any meaningful gains. Self sustaining and self governing communities should have doctors, lawyers, business owners, tradespeople, faith leaders, and so on. There is a lot of work that needs to be done. Success will come when all members work together. Band together and pool your resources to survive, thrive and exist. It is doable so please play your part.


Abdi Mohamud is a social commentator with keen interests on community welfare, societal growth and general well-being of the Somali coteries. You can contact him on [email protected]

You can also feature your writings on The Daily Jubba if you meet the submission requirements on https://bit.ly/3SlMYfz by sending an email to [email protected]


Close Search Window