Mogadishu:- As part of this year’s celebrations to mark the global 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence campaign, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) on Sunday held a virtual round-table discussion on preventing and eliminating violence against women and children in Somalia.
Organized by the Protection, Human Rights and Gender unit of AMISOM in conjunction with Somali Women and Child Care Association (SWCCA), the discussion brought together experts and key authorities from Somali civil society organisations working on issues affecting women and children. Other members of the public also plugged into the online discussion, part of the global campaign aimed at raising awareness about some of the most rampant human rights violations.
Participants at the forum explored critical issues, such as funding initiatives for combating violence against women and children, response in cases of violations, prevention of violations, and collection of data to inform decisions to eradicate women and child abuse-all critical in combating violence against women in conflict, gender-based sexual violence and conflict related sexual violence.
“At AMISOM therefore, we use the 16 Days of Activism campaign to remind the world that combating Gender Based Violence (GBV) remains a priority, especially in areas of conflict, like in Somalia. The COVID-19 pandemic, having broken people’s means, has made matters even worse, leaving women and children more vulnerable,” said Kareem Adebayo, AMISOM’s Head of the Protection, Human Rights and Gender (PHRG) unit.
During the deliberations moderated by AMISOM Protection Officer Gloria Jaase, panelists sought ways of developing a robust framework that will provide lasting mechanisms to combat GBV, and also evaluated the effectiveness of other existing mechanisms.
The panelists included Abdifatah Hassan Ali, a project coordinator with Legal Action Worldwide (LAW), Fadwo Hassan, a gender and GBV expert, Ayaan Said, a gender specialist, Maryan Abdi Khalif, the Somalia area coordinator for Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) Network, and AMISOM Human Rights Expert Kahbila Mbuton.
At the forum, the panelists shed light on the existing legal frameworks that are in place to bring culprits to book, the measures at grass roots level to combat violence against women and girls, services available for GBV survivors especially women and children, and the policies and laws in place to protect women and children in Somalia.
Other topics included, how the existing legislations can be harnessed to better respond to Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV), how to strengthen access to justice by SGBV survivors in Somalia, available funding opportunities for GBV and gender projects in Somalia and international best practices in combating GBV.
The forum, particularly noted the need for Somalia to continuously work towards the attainment of full equality between women and men.
“Gender inequality is at the heart of discrimination against women and children. It is a good thing that today in Somalia, there are more girls going to school and fewer girls being forced into early marriages, but more needs to be done. There are still discriminatory laws and cultural practices not favouring women that must be challenged,” said gender specialist Ayaan Said.
Also highlighted during the discussion was the need for Parliament to expedite the passing into law, of the Sexual Offences Bill, which would help end all forms of SGBV in Somalia, alongside the National Action Plan on ending Sexual Violence in Conflict, an instrument the panelists concurred should be included in the national security agenda, given its link with security.
Every year on November 25, the world kicks-off the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence campaign, which features a series of events on the subject, climaxing on International Human Rights Day, on December 10.
In Somalia, women and children 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 is committed to ending violence against women and girls and subscribes to the ideals espoused in a number of international and regional protocols and conventions such as the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa; the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child; the AU Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa; the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa and Declaration 229 (X11) adopted by the AU proclaiming 2010-2020 as the African Women’s Decade, as well as other international conventions on human rights.
As part of the ongoing campaign, AMISOM will hold a second and final virtual forum to mark the end of the 16 Days of Activism campaign on December 10, themed #International Human Rights Day.
The forum will sensitize the public on the prevalence of GBV and the need to be vigilant to protect potential victims, offer support to survivors and ensure that perpetrators are brought to book.