Each year, the world marks the ‘16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence’ campaign, which begins on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and culminates on December 10, the International Human Rights Day.
It is the brainchild of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership and originated from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991.
In Somalia, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) both marked the launch of the campaign in Mogadishu on Tuesday in separate ceremonies. The United Nations called on all sectors of Somali society to take concrete steps to help bring an end to such violence.
“Somalia has made significant strides to prevent and criminalize sexual offences and gender-based violence. At the federal level, the Council of Ministers passed the Sexual Offices Bill in May this year, a positive step in addressing sexual violence and strengthening the provision of support to survivors,” said the UN Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Somalia, Peter de Clercq at the UN launch event.
The ongoing armed conflict in the country has birthed sexual violence as a by-product and is often used as a weapon of war. Of the 4.2 million persons in need of humanitarian assistance in the country, half are women and girls.
Additionally, humanitarian actors estimate that 2.6 million people are internally displaced, with women and girls in displaced communities more susceptible to gender-based violence than those living in stable communities.
Speaking at a forum organized by AMISOM that brought together youth groups, women’s organisations, local councils, internally-displaced persons and officials from the Federal Government of Somalia, AMISOM Police Gender Coordinator, Stella Sedame, urged those present at the event 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 said.
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.
The forum sought to explore avenues for reporting abuses, survivor assistance at the community and police levels, and referral arrangements in cases of violations.
In line with AMISOM’s larger campaign strategy for community-led initiatives geared towards sustainable peace, AMISOM will hold a series of workshops and outreach programmes throughout Somalia during the 16 days.
The intended outcome of these events is putting an end to gender-based violence and other forms of violence against women and children.
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