Abdul Somed Shahadu

Master in International Development, Dalhousie University

Bachelor of Journalism (Hons.), Journalism and International Development Studies, 2015

This is the legacy I want to bring to my village to show the people … this is the progress I can bring home.

In a small village in northern Ghana where food is sometimes scarce, where life is sometimes short, where girls traditionally can’t go to school, there is a plot of land. If Shahadu Abdul Somed gets his way that plot of land will be the site of a community library, a school for girls and a community radio station.

And it is hard to imagine that Somed won’t get his way.

Somed’s backstory is nothing short of incredible. His father abandoned the family when Somed was a boy, leaving his mother alone to look after him, his brother and sister. They were poor and had no money for school fees. Somed, showing the grit that he continues to show today, walked three hours to the next village, climbed a tree and listened in on a school class. The teacher, when she found out why Somed was there found a way to get him into school. Later, an American philanthropist helped him pay for his high school education. He graduated with distinction.

But Somed wasn’t finished.

“My own mother was a victim of gender inequality and violence,” says Somed. “I thought it was unfair to her and to my sister. I wanted to do something.”

And he did. He helped develop a program, sponsored by the Trull Foundation of Texas, to help girls in his area go to school. He advocated. He wrote letters to local newspapers.

“One editor wanted to know my story,” says Somed. “He said the passion I had and my writing ability speaks of someone who could do journalism.”

And this is where Sam Mednick (BJH ’05) comes in. She worked with Somed and then encouraged him to go to King’s. She helped raise the necessary funds.

Somed hit the quad running and before long had won an international student award to cover his tuition while he earned his journalism degree.

But he still wasn’t finished. Somed has enrolled in the Master’s program in international development at Dalhousie University.

“I want to do development journalism. I want to write about development,” he says.

His thesis is about food security in northern Ghana, and to close the circle, gender equality.

“Women do not have access to farm land. They have to depend on their male relatives to access land,” he says. And he believes that has to change.

It is a natural next step in his vision for economic evolution of his part of Ghana. He has helped more than 160 girls get an education so far. Now he wants to provide them with opportunities once they graduate. He hopes the work he is doing on his thesis will change minds and change practices, bringing economic equality to women.

When Somed returned home, the first in his village with a post-secondary diploma, the village celebrated him with a gift of that plot of land.

“I was given the land and an honorary chiefly title, ‘Zi-Sung Naa’ which translates as ’Chief of Development’, in recognition of the fact and my role in starting the girl’s education project.”

It is that land where he wants to build the school, the library and the radio station.

“This is the legacy I want to bring to my village to show the people that after so many years in school, this is the progress I can bring home.”

Posted: Apr. 2016

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