Main content


An oral tradition used to powerful effect

By using his poetry to engage people and raise the debate on social issues, Hamze is helping to challenge attitudes and create a more caring society.

Surrounded by beautiful mountains and eye-catching scenery, Borama, a town on the Ethiopian border, is a centre of learning and the home of Amoud University, the first opened in Somaliland. Presidents, politicians, business people and poets have graduated from this famous university – it’s the place where tomorrow's leaders are made. 

In the beginning

Among the university’s young graduates is a 23-year-old poet, Hamze. The Work in Progress! (WiP!) program staff had a conversation with him in his hometown, Borama.  Hamze was raised by his caring parents with nine other siblings and recognizes the great start he had: “My parents are my world. I remain obedient to them,” he says.

Hamze studied Public Administration and Law, but is now using his legal and social knowledge to write poetry to inspire others who may compose songs about tribalism and ‘Tahriib’ (migration). In his poem, Waayo-Dhugad (Life experience), for instance, he warned against rape:

Ruined my future in a night,

You [rapists] took my pride,

And kept my tears rolling down my cheeks.

Photo credit: Han Films

Gaining recognition

Hamze is becoming well known for his activity. In 2014, he won second prize in a poetry competition held at Borama, and he was acknowledged as one of the most influential youth in Awdal region in 2018. His campaigning on social issues, especially his fight against rape, was finally recognized.

By word of mouth

Hamze’s dream is to motivate young people to change, by supporting their initiatives to reflect on their concerns, for instance through song. His close friends, however, were sceptical about Hamze’s social activities. They rather doubted his ability to make a difference in their social environment. "My friends believe song-writing is just a waste of time," he explained. “But I insisted on continuing no matter how much they challenged me, because I believe that my people have an oral tradition, and word of mouth is so strong.”

A pioneer for change

Despite the resistance from his friends, Hamze soldiered on, writing poems and songs with little or no support from the community. He was convinced that what he was doing had value, and he showed considerable resilience by persisting with his idea. And now he is famous for his peace poems and songs, which has slowly earned him respect among his peers.

Hamze’s messages are delivered via social media (see the links below) and local television stations, which has enabled him to reach the Somali diaspora in North America and Europe.

Photo credit: Monium

The power of song

“Poetry is art and expression, and has been in my blood since my childhood,” says Hamze. His ambition now is to change Somaliland society through the power of songs and poetry. "If you want people to develop their country, young people are the starting point – they have the drive and stamina to pioneer changes,” he concludes.



Hamze‘s story is part of the multiyear campaign, kicked off on International Youth Day 2019 by the Empower Youth for Work program and the Work in Progress! alliance. The campaign aims to support the national influencing work of the respective programs by joining forces with local role models. The ripples of #Iwasthere are spreading out around the world and these stories are proof that change can happen anywhere – we hope they will inspire you, too, to become an active citizen. 


Why these stories?

There are more young people today than ever before in the history of the world; 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10 and 24 worldwide, and 90% of them live in low-income countries. . Harnessing the energy and strength of young women and men to become active citizens is core to Oxfam's goal of transformational change.

With their energy, skills and creativity, young people have the potential to be the driving force for social change, strong economies and vibrant democracies. 

Oxfam is working jointly with youth to challenge barriers that prevent them from


Enjoying their rights


Participating fully in society


Being an effective voice in decision-making processes