In Somalia, UNICEF supports efforts to push back against a tide of violence against women and girls
By Susannah Price
MOGADISHU, Somalia, 20 November 2012 – Mayeda* was displaced in 1992 and again in 2011 because of famine in southern Somalia. She has lived in Tarabunka camp for a year.
A man broke into the shelter where Mayeda’s family was living and raped her young daughter. “It is very easy for these gangs to come to our place and do whatever they want,” she says.
According to UNHCR, there are more than 180,000 internally displaced persons in Benadir region, which includes the capital, Mogadishu. There are makeshift settlements across the area, with most internally displaced persons reporting they have come from outside the city to escape drought or conflict.
Young girls and women forced to leave their homes and villages face another ordeal once they arrive at the camps set up for the displaced.
There, they are vulnerable to attacks and rape, particularly at night, or when they are out collecting firewood or during food distributions.
Amina has come to Mogadishu to escape fighting. She, her unemployed husband and their four children have ended up in Tarabunka camp. Amina says there are cases of violence against girls and women every day.
She has seen a teenager chased by a gang and sexually assaulted. “This happens often here in this camp – and has happened to me,” she says.
According to Aisha, 32, who has fled Bossasso for Mogadishu, attacks on children are a common problem.
“Every family that has a 9-year-old girl will hide them at night so that she can be safe,” says Aisha, who has nine children. “If women go out to find firewood, they are going to be raped, and they are attacked in the middle of the night by gunmen – and there is nowhere to go.”
Treatment, support and relocation
UNICEF has supplied post-rape treatment kits to all districts in Mogadishu through four hospitals and maternal and child health centres. Centre workers have been trained in psycho-social support and clinical management of rape.
UNICEF is also ensuring that survivors of rape who are still at risk are relocated to safer areas and can access income-generating activities to support their families.
In an area that includes Mogadishu, UNICEF is training teachers on basic emotional support to ensure that schools have social workers able to prevent and respond to sexual violence and abuse against children.
In the northern areas of Puntland and Somaliland, UNICEF and partners provide technical support to the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education. These ministries have introduced training in psycho-social care and support into the training curricula for teachers and health professionals.
UNICEF partners are using the new Gender-Based Violence Information Management System (GBVIMS) to track trends and patterns of different forms of gender-based violence against both children and adults. The GBVIMS informs UNICEF’s programmes in order to respond to and prevent gender-based violence better.
UNICEF also supports the distribution of fuel-efficient stoves as a proactive prevention mechanism against gender-based violence. These stoves reduce the need for women and girls to go out and search for firewood.
*Names have been changed to protect identities.