On the first day of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children, participants at a public awareness forum in Mogadishu called for an end to violence against women in conflict, gender-based sexual violence and conflict-related sexual violence.
Organized by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the forum brought together youth groups, women’s organisations, local councils, internally-displaced persons and officials from the Federal Government of Somalia to explore avenues for reporting abuses, survivor assistance at the community and police levels, and referral arrangements in cases of violations.
Each year on November 25, the world kicks-off the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence campaign which ends on International Human Rights Day, on December 10.
“This day reminds us of our commitment to ensure advocacy for survivors, to ensure awareness raising, and to ensure that in different countries laws are amended towards the protection of women and children” said AMISOM Protection Officer, Gloria Jaase.
For the 16 days of activism, AMISOM is going to hold a series of workshops and outreach programmes in various parts of Somalia aimed at advocating for the end to gender-based violence and other forms of violence against women and children, which ties into AMISOM’s campaign for community-led initiatives for sustainable peace.
“Our plan is to ensure that civil society organizations, community members as well as youth and key community leaders work together with AMISOM on gender, child protection and women’s protection,” Jaase said.
Women and children in Somalia are victims of gross violations in the ongoing armed conflict, with some criminal elements using sexual violence as a weapon of war. Amongst the most vulnerable groups are women and girls living in internally displaced camps and areas still under the control of Al-Shabaab and other armed terrorist groups.
AMISOM Police Gender Coordinator, Stella Sedame, urged the participants not to remain silent but to report any cases of gender-based sexual violence and conflict-related sexual violence that happen in their communities.
“Do not let the fire in you die in this room. Go back home and help victims and survivors of gender-based sexual violence and conflict-related sexual violence. But most importantly, remember that the privacy of the victims and survivors must be protected,” she urged.
Saida Mohamed Hashim, Child Protection Adviser with the Federal Ministry of Justice and Judicial Affairs, said Somalis have to speak up if gender-based sexual violence and conflict-related sexual violence is to end. “Stop the silence and report any cases of violence against women. The Federal Government of Somalia is committed to end any forms of violations, and give everyone access to justice,” she said.