COMMUNIQUE: Our heads are bent by the heavy burden

The Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) Network convened its annual board, staff and advisors meeting attended by 32 members from 8 different countries across the region on 16 – 18th November,  in Entebbe, Uganda.

Our debates and discussion underlined the new cycles of disparity evolving every day, which continue to implicate women, girls and communities across the region. Just last month, over 200 people were killed in the streets of Mogadishu as a result of a massive explosion of 2 trucks. Many women garbage collectors and street vendors were killed during the attack. Although activists and women’s rights defenders work tirelessly in addressing sexual violence against women and girls around the region, often under complex conditions, we have seen insignificant policy and legislation change to address sexual violence.

The Sexual Offense Bills are still awaiting parliamentary approval in Somaliland and in Somalia, for example, despite the escalation of sexual violence across the Somali region. Across Sudan, women victims of sexual violence still cannot report in hopes of retribution without being criminalized, stigmatized and re-victimized, particularly in the conflict region of Darfur. Sexual violence is becoming the norm in South Sudan, widely adopted as war and retaliation strategy by armed factions.

Women and girl migrants, IDP’s and refugees are among the most vulnerable groups, subjected to police, border guards, and militia brutality across the Horn of Africa. Women are persecuted for their gender and movements; from rural to urban areas, for fleeing poverty and attempting to earn a living and while crossing borders, running from war and unbearable living conditions.

It is beyond time for the regional actors to reclaim their responsibility within this chaotic situation and collaborate with, and not alienate and undermine their citizens.

We at SIHA continue to seek the solidarity of our friends and like-minded groups around the world. Our heads are bent by the heavy burden, but we must and will continue fighting for our dignity.