Mogadishu – To mark the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, 30 survivors of sexual violence completed business skills training to improve their lives under a UN-supported initiative.
The survivors underwent three months of training in tailoring and clothes dyeing and received starter kits with clothing and dyes to create income-generating businesses.
In a statement marking the Day, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, James Swan, urged authorities to strengthen legal and social protection mechanisms for survivors of sexual violence. “It is through economic empowerment that survivors will be able to sustain themselves and their families, and eradicate the stigma associated with enduring such violence,” noted Mr. Swan.
Combating conflict-related sexual violence
The Director of Gender in the Ministry of Women, Human Rights, and Development, Sadia Mohamed Nur, said the government takes sexual violence against women seriously and will work with civil society to curb it.
“The government welcomes all support to improve the lives of women, in particular survivors of gender-based violence and sexual violence,” Ms. Nur said.
In January this year, the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) adopted a national action plan to address conflict-related sexual violence.
Speaking at the event, Somali women activists urged authorities to do more to improve women’s rights. They also emphasised that the draft Sexual Offences Bill, once passed, will address sex crimes, including conflict-related sexual violence.
Ifrah Ahmed, a women’s rights activist, called upon the government to do more to support respect for women’s rights.
“We want the rights of women to be respected. We want to see action taken against violators of women’s rights. We want Parliament to pass the sexual offences bill. This will ensure justice for survivors of sexual violence,” said Ms. Ahmed, founder of Ifrah Foundation, an NGO advocating against Female Genital Mutilation.
Benefits of the training
Trainees who spoke on the sidelines of the event said the skills acquired and the start-up kits would transform their lives.
Farhiya Ali Nur, a mother of a rape survivor, thanked the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) and Somali Women and Child Care Association (SWCCA) for the support.
“I never had any skills apart from doing menial jobs. I have acquired business skills and received a start-up kit. I urge for funding support to survivors to boost their confidence and enable them to become productive members of society,” Ms. Nur said.
The project supported by the UN, was jointly implemented by Stand Speak Rise UP (SSRU), a non-governmental organisation that defends survivors of sexual violence, and SWCCA, a community-based organisation that supports women and children.
In Somalia, the UN’s efforts in the area of sexual violence in conflict include running specialized holistic support centres for women formerly associated with Al-Shabaab, where after initial counselling and psycho-social support, the women undergo vocational training with the aim of enhancing their opportunities for economic self-sustenance for themselves and their families.