1. Introduce yourself (Name, organization, and how long you have been involved in activism)
Name: Kinzi Hussein Qowden
Organization: Women Rehabilitation and Development Association
Involved in activism: Since 1992
2. Describe the work that you have been doing as a women rights activist/defender in your country;
- I advocate for ending all sorts of gender-based violence including increased women’s participation in leadership, decision- making and politics. I trained women potential leaders, women quota advocacy through coordination activities of Somaliland Women Political Forum a pressure group that worked and accelerated Somaliland women to access leadership positions, such as Ministers, parliament and local councils. That Forum was active from 2002 to 2010 and their product is obvious although too minimum, now there are women Ministers, parliament, local council, Directors and other government agencies. But the battle is too far.
- Promote and build the capacity of women and girls to amplify their voices and claim rights. I also want to create women-to-women movements and solidarities.
- Activist and promoter for unleashing the potential of poor grass-roots women to establish and sustain low income women through saving and investing in grass-roots groups. My organization WORDA established and built capacities of 950 Self Help Groups, who manage their savings and make investment revolving loans within the groups.
- I’m an advocator and promoter for ending poverty as a significant factor for ending violence against women through enhancing employable skills, basic business development and management skills to women and facilitate linkages with microfinance institutions to access micro credits. I’ve trained women and girls in skills for generating income and being self-employed.
3. What do you think are the three most important women’s rights issues in your country and why?
The 3 most important women’s rights issues:
- Reproductive health rights – there are limited reproductive health services for women in remote and rural areas. FGM/C and rape are not a national priority since there is immense male-dominated decision making in government institutions, so there is a need for amplifying voices and continuity of advocacy to ending violence against women and girls.
- Women’s participatory rights – There is limited space for women leadership and political participation since there is a strong political and leadership male democracy in Somaliland, that shrinks women’s access to leadership and decision making at all levels.
- Women economic and employment rights – Majority of Somaliland women run small and medium-sized business, but face difficulties in accessing microfinance without strict and reliable terms and long term credits for promotion and development of their business. Girls as well face difficulties in accessing middle employment positions in government institutions because of the male domination in government institutions.
4. What kind of limitations have you faced in your activism in your country and beyond, within the East and Horn of Africa region?
Limitations we face, as women issues advocates, is not being seen as a priority due to the lacking government willingness and commitment. The major cause is that there is no single gender-concerned law has been passed and implemented.
There’s also missing women grassroots movement.
5. Do you feel like women rights are being treated as human rights? (If YES or NO, please provide reasons)
No, it is seen as NGO business. The argument that mostly comes up is that since Somaliland is 100% Muslim country that Islam has given rights to women. Yes, that is true, but they are ignoring that it is the humans that violate each other.
6. Do you believe that the space for women rights activists/defenders in civil society is shrinking? If yes, why?
No it is not shrinking, but the problem is networks overshadow the work of individual organizations, so voices are scattered and not harmonized to be strongly heard.
7. Do you feel protected in the work that you do? (If YES or NO, please provide reasons)
Yes, we mostly talk about women’s issues and the problem is obvious but the challenge is missing actions towards the issue.
8. Over the tenure of your activism, do you feel like you have been rewarded or recognized for the work that you do? (If YES or NO, please provide reasons)
The major reason is that I did not collect and document my activism actions and as well I did not meet with a second party who recognize and reward for my actions.
9. What do you envision is the landscape for women human rights defenders in the region?
I envision women in the region to have strong institutions that make linkages among them to learn from each other.
10. What keeps you motivated to keep doing this work?
Women and girls who always prepare themselves to access leadership position, or run for an elective position, I realize still women need me in order to motivate not to be tired, to advise how to overcome challenges. I also violations towards women motivates me to continue advocacy for gender based violation laws, policies and bills.