SIHA’s focus in Somalia is strengthening women’s access to justice and transforming negative and harmful religious and cultural dogma, strengthening women’s access to justice and transforming negative and harmful religious and cultural dogma, promoting Peaceful Coexistence and Research, Civil Society Capacity Building, and Advocacy.

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.

Legal Framework

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.

Somalia has a rich and complex history, marred in recent decades by high levels of violence and conflict. This gender briefing examines the status of women in Somalia, but does not directly include information from the self-declared state of Somaliland, though many of the cultural practices and traditional customs and beliefs are shared across the region. Somaliland broke away from Somalia in 1991 and administrates itself under its own government, though its status as a state has never been recognized internationally. Since the overthrow of Siad Barre’s 21-year government in January 1991, civil conflict has torn Somalia apart, leading to the collapse of the state and the economy. Fighting between armed Islamist groups and pro-government forces has subjected southern and central Somalia to violence and instability, with growing unrest in Puntland and along the contested border between Puntland and Somaliland. Civilians have been killed and injured as a result of indiscriminate attacks and generalized violence. Conflict has forced over two million people to leave their homes, seeking refuge as internally displaced persons (IDPs) or as refugees in neighboring countries. Due to armed groups and insecurity, aid agencies have had very limited access to civilians and the displaced. Humanitarian workers, journalists and human rights activists are at risk of being killed and/or abducted. Armed groups control most of southern and central Somalia and they often carry out unlawful killings, torture and forced recruitment. The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) controls only part of the capital, Mogadishu, and there is no effective justice system. Serious human rights abuses, including war crimes go unpunished. Somalia continues to carry out the death penalty.

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

“Standing together – engaging men in preventing and combating sexual violence in Somalia” 

Through the engagement of men, SIHA’ focuses on challenging militant Islamic ideologies and the patriarchal structures that currently subjugate women making them vulnerable to direct violence. Understanding men’s role in Somali’s clan based society, SIHA in collaboration with its partner organization Somali Women Development Centre conducted trainings on women and gender roles, as well as on leadership and community facilitation.

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

SIHA’s work focused on the economic empowerment of female street vendors. Female street vendors are particularly at risk of being subjected to SGBV and though their employment in the informal sector has few labor rights. In collaboration with its member organization IDPO, SIHA initiated a project to raise awareness and promote rights for street vendors in Mogadishu.

Peaceful Coexistence

SIHA and its member organization COGWO organized a peace campaign in the Benadir region. The campaign included workshops to develop radio programs on peace and reconciliation issues and involved peace activists, women groups, intellectuals and moderate religious leaders.

Research, Civil Society Capacity Building, and Advocacy

SIHA has conducted extensive research on Somalia from 2010 up to date and has conducted trainings and courses on capacity building of local civil society organizations, to work increase their organizational capacity in the complex working environment of Somalia.

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)