Thematic Programme Areas

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Challenging Violence Against Women and Girls

SIHA continues to advocate for the end of systematic use of rape as a weapon of war and an end to sexual exploitation and abuse by militarized forces in conflict and post-conflict situations in Sudan, Somalia, and South Sudan. SIHA intends to continue its work on addressing the spread of sexual violence crimes throughout the Horn, and to challenge cultures of silence and impunity. SIHA will also address all forms of domestic violence – encouraging its members to acknowledge and address this under-recognized form of violence. SIHA will continue to utilize its successful approaches to changing gender inequitable attitudes among both men and women, particularly through work with youth and on changing entrenched religious and cultural beliefs. SIHA will combat sexual harassment in public space, which it sees as a protest against women’s freedom of movement, as well as in the workplace, schools, and universities. SIHA will also address sexual and reproductive health rights laws and services to address Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG).

SIHA will build capacity institutions and work with professionals to provide medical, legal, psychosocial, and other support to survivors and to build networks of supportive communities. SIHA is aiming to build sustainable support amongst survivors themselves, such as through the creation and expansion of VAWG survivor associations. Continue reading Walking through a Forest of Thorns and Guides on Community Activism in Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia and SomalilandThe Other War- Gangrape in Somaliland for a detailed insight on SIHA’s efforts to fight violence against women and girls in the Horn of Africa.

Strengthening women’s access to justice and transforming negative and harmful religious and cultural dogma

Recent history in the Horn has seen religious and cultural dogma used more and more to subjugate women, and traditional and customary justice systems colluding to restrict women’s human rights. Women from the Horn have been caught in a paradoxical situation: while national laws in most countries guarantee human rights and equality for all, parallel yet legitimate systems of customary laws and of Sharia law continue to violate women’s rights, casting men as the undisputed heads in both private and public life. Plural legal systems mean a lack of accountability, and that women suffer arrests on allegations ranging from indecent dress and behavior to being victims of rape and charged with impunity. SIHA promotes women’s access to justice within a broader context of challenging concepts and practices that perpetrate violence and discrimination through application of militant religion and customary/traditional laws. 

SIHA will continue to address institutional violence through research and knowledge sharing. Relying on women’s testimonies, SIHA will collect and share knowledge on the impacts of applying concepts within religious militancy and traditional practices that contribute to the subordination of women. SIHA intends to sustain and improve its advocacy and support for women’s access to justice across the Horn of Africa. Continue to carry out research and advocacy work on legal reform in line with CEDAW and international human rights standards. SIHA will carry out research, advocacy, and strategic litigation efforts on women’s experiences with justice and rule of law institutions, asking fundamental questions about the limitation of customary institutions to deliver justice. SIHA will continue to focus on mass incarceration of women in Sudan and South Sudan.

Empowering women economically towards the realization of economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR)

Over the years, SIHA has developed deep and unique expertise in supporting women in the informal sector across its network. As in the past, SIHA will continue supporting these women, these invisible labourers, to know and claim their rights. SIHA will use its position as an international actor to advocate for safety and protection of women working in these sectors, including street vendors, petty traders, domestic workers, and alcohol brewers. SIHA will focus on women IDPs coming from rural areas, refugees, minority groups, and others on the margins of society particularly vulnerable to economic exploitation. SIHA will use research to emphasize the contribution of women in the informal sector to overall national economies.

In addition, SIHA will target its economic empowerment more specifically to bring women out of the margins of employment. SIHA will do this through skills building (marketable skills including and beyond the informal sector, literacy skills) in combination with raising awareness of economic, social, and cultural rights. SIHA will look to break gender stereotypes in employment so that women have the right to access the same variety of employment options that are available to men, and to equal pay for equal work. Moreover, SIHA will do this though supporting opportunities for collective action through women’s cooperatives, unions, and associations. SIHA’s publications such as Bread for Breadwinners introduces the basics of small scale business, case studies and planning methods and accessible tools for the formation of cooperatives and training of women, and demonstrates our understanding of the role of women in driving household income generation given the proper tools to succeed in small-scale businesses.

Combating trafficking in women and girls in the Horn

Trafficking of women, as observed by SIHA’s research has strong links to women’s subordination and vulnerabilities. There is a need for more exploration into its causes and contributing factors, as well as to elevate the experiences of women and girls who have been trafficked. SIHA has assessed that trafficking channels are complex and consist of hidden networks affiliated with local communities, government, law enforcement, and border patrol. Hence, SIHA will focus on preventing trafficking by advocating for laws that punish traffickers, by pushing for border protection along known trafficking routes, and by improving the social and economic conditions of women in their local areas and creating more awareness. SIHA will advocate for protection of migrant workers abroad and push for strict monitoring of women and girls who work abroad by their sponsors. SIHA will raise awareness amongst women who work in domestic labor about their human rights, including the right to work free from all forms of exploitation.

SIHA’s advocacy efforts will continue to target regional blocs like IGAD and will rely on media to raise awareness of the complexities of trafficking in the Horn. Testimonies from trafficking survivors will be essential for informing these advocacy efforts. SIHA will also continue its work on rights for migrant communities, such as, the Ethiopian community in Somaliland whose rights are entirely unrecognized by the Somaliland government. SIHA will enhance past programming which focused on providing support and services to victims of trafficking and returnees. SIHA will support survivors of trafficking in order to facilitate their recovery from trauma and reintegration into their communities of origin when possible. SIHA's publication Letters from Eritrea tells the harsh stories and insights into the plight of women victims of human trafficking moving from Eritrea and Sudan to the Middle East via the Sinai Peninsula.

Building inclusive women’s movements

Women human rights defenders (WHRD) and activists are the primary actors building the universality of women’s rights in the Horn countries and political entities. However, recently there is a growing realization that mounting tensions between the affirmation of the universality of rights and the need to create space for cultural differences and diversity is influencing the debate and limiting the effectiveness of WHRD.  It is critical for women’s rights movements to embrace politics of inclusion and collective activism in resisting violations against women’s rights. SIHA sees potential for a huge reformist movement to emerge from the Horn of Africa with the right coordination and approaches, but the space of activism needs to open wider to reach and include the margins. This means ethnic, tribal, religious, class, and other marginalized women and girls whose voices are frequently excluded from what the Horn calls its women’s movement. SIHA’s research has revealed that in many countries around the Horn ethnic, clan, or tribal elites lead the women’s movement. The problem is that a movement that is dominated by women elites typically fails to connect with and mobilize broader constituencies of women around its agendas, even when those agendas are to their benefit, resulting in isolated and often polarized women’s groups. It is important to name this tension between women’s organizations and grassroots movements, and to observe the slow cooperation, ownership, or ‘buy-in’ of the local community into women’s rights agendas.