Somalia

Amidst the worst drought crisis experienced in a decade, the need for GBV services is greater than ever.

When men and boys are forced to move with their livestock in pursuit of graze and water, women and girls are left alone without the protection of their family. This leaves women and girls at risk of Gender-Based Violence (GBV), especially when having to travel long distances to collect water, fire-wood and other necessary items for the household.

UNFPA Somalia, together with our Implementing Partner (IP) ASAL, has established GBV one-stop centers in Dhahar and Qardho districts to assist those in need of GBV services. GBV is oftentimes a result of families’ disruption of income, restricted mobility and denied or restricted access to labour and land. The prevalence of GBV increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, and there is no sign of it decreasing amidst the ongoing drought - the worst drought crisis Somalia has experienced in a decade.

Much has been done to improve and change behaviors towards GBV in Somalia, such as raising awareness about incidents of rape: how to report and prevent GBV from taking place, on both community and individual levels.

With great thanks to ASAL, we were able to collect a number of testimonies from GBV survivors who have benefited from the support provided at the GBV one-stop centers in Dhahar and Qardho districts. In order to protect the identity of the survivors, the names in the following recounts have been changed.

“Every day I faced physical and psychological violence from my husband,” said Muna Ali. “We shared a home with our two children, my mother, aunt and six siblings. My husband deprived me and our children the human dignity we deserve to receive from a husband and a father. When we quarreled on some issues related to daily bills and other necessary things for our livelihood, he used to insult me. My family was not able to support me whenever this happened. Instead, they would tell me that I have to tolerate it and stay with him because of traditional norms. In these times, with the COVID-19 pandemic, rising food prices and ongoing droughts, it was getting worse,” she said.

“One of the worst things about my situation was my family’s failure to feel the pain that I was going through and their continued pressure on me to endure the violence. Recently, someone told me about a GBV one-stop center in Dhahar district that helps women who suffer from GBV, and that you can receive psychosocial counselling and legal aid there,” Muna explained.

“When I first met one of the psychosocial workers at the center, I was told that I can share my ordeals with her and that sharing may relieve my pains. I came to see her several times after that for counselling sessions, which changed much of my behavior. I now feel stable and thanks to the support provided by UNFPA and ASAL through the center I was able to file a case against my husband, which is now being resolved in court on the basis of justice,” Muna concluded.

Muna and her husband are currently separated, and her life has improved since she is able to live in peace with her two children and focus on her recovery after years of hardships at the hands of her husband.

“My husband chews khat, smokes cigarettes and pays no attention to family affairs,” says Halima, a 35-year-old mother of nine children. “After repeated beatings, I took my case to the police and showed them my sustained injuries as a result of violence. The police referred my case to ASAL’s GBV one-stop center in Xingood, Qardho where I have been assisted with medical services, such as lab analyses, scanning and medical prescriptions. Meanwhile, ASAL assisted me in acquiring legal aid, and after a successful legal case my husband was sentenced to prison. In addition, my husband was fined to pay compensation for my injuries,” Halima explained.

“Since the case was settled, my husband does not beat me anymore and he pays household bills and expenditures regularly. Not only did I receive legal aid from the center, I have also benefited from awareness-raising sessions on GBV and the protection of girls and women. In the event of any misconduct or occurrence of GBV in our community, survivors are immediately encouraged to call ASAL’s call-center number or reach out to a GBV focal point to take immediate actions,” Halima explains.

“As a community, we have truly benefitted from this project: it is very useful for vulnerable people, like women and girls, who have nowhere to turn for help. In the event that anyone encounters GBV, either in the household or on a community level, we all know now to contact the UNFPA and ASAL GBV one-stop center. There you will receive the necessary services. I have also been able to convince my husband to participate in ASAL’s monthly GBV awareness-raising sessions, where we talk about the prevention of GBV, behavioral change and how to end household violence in our community,” Halima concluded.

Warsan Adan is a 20-year-old mother of two children from Qardho district. Warsan came in contact with the UNFPA and ASAL supported GBV one-stop center in Qardho after surviving GBV at the hands of her husband. “I received comprehensive medical treatments for my injuries at Guutale Hospital and since the hospital has a referral agreement for GBV survivors with ASAL, I was referred to the one-stop center. I was in great need of counselling after facing trauma from my husband and the despair that followed,” she explained.

“After receiving counselling from ASAL’s psychosocial worker at the GBV one-stop center, I was able to convince my husband to participate in the monthly GBV awareness sessions conducted by ASAL in IDP camps. The sessions bring together women, men, girls and boys and raise awareness about GBV and how we can all support in preventing it,” Warsan recounts.

“It surprised me how much my mental health improved after the counselling sessions and how much my husband’s behavior changed after he had participated in the GBV awareness sessions. Now, we are a united family and we work together on household chores. Now, if we disagree on any issue we communicate with each other instead of resorting to any kind of violence,” Warsan concluded.