16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence in Somalia
Gender-based violence (GBV) continues to be one of the most prevalent human rights violations affecting communities globally. Knowing no social, physical or economic bounds, GBV deteriorates the health, dignity and autonomy of its victims, and creates a culture of silence. Due to unequal power relations, harmful social practices and traditional patriarchal structures, women and girls are disproportionately affected by GBV compared to men. Violence can happen to any woman in any country, regardless of culture, religion or economic status. Gender inequality, which reinforces harmful gender norms are key drivers of violence against women. According to UNFPA1, one in every three women worldwide will experience some form of violence in their lifetime. These odds, coupled with natural disasters and conflicts, leave displaced communities in Somalia extremely vulnerable to GBV. In camp or camp-like settings, women, girls and groups-at-risk often have less access to lifesaving information and to participate in camp-life due to different factors, such as existing unequal power dynamics or cultural barriers that restrict their movements. Meaningful, inclusive and representative participation in decision-making and camp governance structures is imperative for good camp management in ensuring that the risks, needs and capacities of women, girls and groups-at-risk are considered and prioritised. This is also essential in improving humanitarian response, community engagement and support, mitigating GBV and ultimately to ensure accountability towards affected populations.
To raise awareness and advocate globally for the end of violence against women, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign kicks off annually on the 25th of November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and runs until 10th of December, Human Rights Day. This annual international campaign calls for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls, with the international community and humanitarian agencies actively participating in advocating and highlighting the importance of this campaign. This year, in Somalia, the 16 Days of Activism Against GBV campaign kicked off in Kismayo, Dollow and Baidoa displacement camps with support from the Women Participation Project (WPP) and Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM). Throughout the 16 days, IOM staff recorded attendance of over 2,000 participants, with a third of the participants being male.
“We want Somali women to be empowered. The trainings and awareness campaigns helped women know where they can report their cases, so that something can be done about them. The women feel encouraged to help themselves,” shared Rahmo Sheikh Abdi, from the Buula Isaaq IDP site in Kismayo.
Members of the Women’s Group in each location were directly involved in the organisation of the events, which included singing, dancing and theatrical performances. The songs and dances focused on their power to overcome the challenges they face as women and invited other members of the community to join the initiative. Awareness campaigns were opened to all community members within the IDP sites. Trainings on advocacy were aimed at both men and women in Camp Management Committees (CMC) and women’s groups in order to make sure information reached all parts of the community.
The global theme this year was Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent and Collect, highlighting the need to increase funding to prevent GBV. With less than 1% of global humanitarian funding going towards GBV prevention and response globally, it is essential to highlight this need, to ensure survivors receive the services they need, focus on preventing GBV in communities and to collect data that improves services for GBV. In line with the campaign, community members wore orange shirts, scarves and caps with 16 Days of Activism Against GBV messages embedded. 16 designs of stickers were also distributed, one message for each day of the campaign, tackling issues of GBV and women empowerment. Some of the messages included were “Our girls’ matter. End child marriage,” and “Educate men and boys on how to prevent violence against girls and women.” Written in Somali, the stickers were distributed at the start of each day, and the participants were encouraged to display them in community centres, health clinics, schools and water stations, to raise awareness amongst the wider community.