Since the 1990s, Somalia has witnessed a long-lasting civil war and still has not found its way into stability. The normalization of violence coupled with deeply-rooted gender discriminatory norms and growing frustrations have resulted in the escalation of violence against women with incidents of rape and sexual assaults reaching alarming levels. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and forced/early marriage are still rife and are frequently assumed by communities to be essential aspects of Islam. Displaced populations are at a particularly high risk of abuse and violence committed against them. Furthermore, the access for humanitarian organizations remains limited through, continuing fighting, insecurity and restrictions imposed by parties to the conflict.
In Somalia’s patriarchal and clan-based society, men occupy positions of dominance and authority and are often positioned such that they can protect against, permit or perpetrate abuse. The lack of a formal legal framework combined with customary law, Shari’a law and statutory law ensures SGBV survivors do not have access to justice. Many survivors of violence are afraid to report due to the fear of reprisals and the fact that survivors can be criminalized as rape is still seen as adultery.
Challenging Gender Disparities and Islamic Militancy in Somaliland and the Horn of Africa Region
SIHA is further currently implementing a new project “Negotiating Change –building a platform for challenging religious militancy and gender disparities in the horn of Africa” focusing on selected countries in the Horn of Africa, identified as those which are most affected by the recent surge in militancy and conservative interpretations of the Islamic religion, namely Sudan, Kenya, Somalia and Somaliland.
Capacity building and Human Rights Awareness
In Somaliland SIHA’s main focus is to address the limited access to state legal and judicial protection or remedy where such institutions exist and function, SIHA successively conducted a study on women in the informal economy as informal laborers. The study was trying to identify people’s view on women in Somaliland who work in the informal economy as tea sellers and, if there are policies or programmes in place for protecting women in this sector and how are local Somaliland women’s rights activist addressing the vulnerabilities and risks faced by women in the informal sector there?
Organizational development training and strengthening women’s political engagement
In Somaliland, SIHA further put emphasis on organizational development and capacity building trainings as well as sub-granting for local civil society organizations working in the sector of political engagement of women. Therefore SIHA collaborated with its member organization SOWRAG in initiating “Advocacy for Justice” which aimed at capacity building for women to seek justice and profit from their rights, as well as training of potential female leader in human rights and access to justice.
Awareness-raising Campaigns to challenge sexual violence
SIHA in collaboration with its member organization Women’ s Action for Advocacy and Progress (WAAPO) have carried out community outreach and sensitization campaign to the communities in Statehouse and Daami IDP camps about the harms of GBV and FGM.
More recently, Nagaad Network; women Network and a SIHA member have been the lead in facilitating and passing the sexual offenses bill into law. This bill has been pending before the parliament in the past 14 months. The resistance faced by the activism were mainly of two folds; resistance by some MPs in light of religious understanding and a resistance on the bases of the culture of silence over sexually related issues. A reference from the office of the prosecutor says that around 103 rape cases have been reported in Somaliland in 2016.
SIHA has been working all across Somalia, together with its 9 member organizations, as for example:
- The Iniskoy Peace and Democracy Organization (IPDO)
- The Community Organization for Relief and Development (CORD)
- The Somali Women Development Center (SWDC)
- The Somali Community Care (SOCOCA)