Gender Training in Somalia

From WFP - Gender News No. 21
We will not forget WFP's assistance to the women in Somaliland. We will use the PRA tools we have learnt from WFP and we thank WFP for the training. - Workshop participant

Gender training workshops for Somali women's groups and NGOs working with WFP were held in Hargeisa and Bosasso last year in collaboration with the WFP Regional Programme Office.

The workshops, which were conducted in both Somali and English, presented WFP's Commitments to Women, the differences between gender and sex, and how gender affects social relationships and the division of labour in a community. Participants also took field trips to Ijaara and Galgala villages.

PRA as a Tool The purpose of including Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) in the training was to promote gender-sensitive and participatory project planning and implementation methods in complex emergencies. PRA is a process that facilitates community-based participation in project cycle management. It allows the community to look at its problems and their causes, and to identify positive solutions.

Lessons Learnt Participants realised the importance of community participation in planning projects. Through increased community involvement, it is easier to recognise and understand capacities and vulnerabilities.

Most of the tools applied during the field trips depicted a clear picture of the different lives of women, men, girls, and boys. The daily schedules of men, for example, were marked by ample time dedicated to socialising and praying whereas women's days were heavily crowded with household chores ranging from fetching water and firewood in the morning, to taking care of children, cleaning, and selling produce in the market. An exercise in producing seasonal calendars showed that both boys and girls assisted in farming activities. Girls dedicated more time to assisting their mothers, leaving them with no time to attend school.

The workshop groups that worked with either men or women alone raised the priorities deemed most important to each group. Working with both men and women provided a more balanced insight into the community. As a result of the field experience, participants acknowledged that both women and men must be equally consulted when dealing with food security issues. All participants pledged to use their new skills to further involve communities they assist.

Meet Hodan Omar, a very determined woman

Hodan Omar is the chairperson of Deeqa, an NGO umbrella organisation of 20 women's groups dealing with issues of health, nutrition, agriculture, education and income generation for women in Somalia. She was one of the participants at the gender training workshop in Hargeisa, Somalia. Hodan was born in Ethiopia in 1954 and was raised by an aunt after her parents separated when she was only one year-old. Her family moved to Hargeisa where she attended Q'uranic school, elementary school and an intermediate school in Burao.

Unlike many Somali women, Hodan went to nursing school when she was 17 years old, but soon left and married. "I had ten children. Two of them died immediately after birth and this made me want to go back to nursing school and specialise in obstetrics," explains Hodan. She found a job with a local health centre for US$7 per month and, in 1981, her skills and determination paid off when she became the head nurse.

"At the time of the war, I went back to Ethiopia with six of my children. They had killed so many members of my family. They had destroyed all the buildings. There was nothing left . . . so I was forced to move back to Ethiopia." When Hodan finally returned to Hargeisa in 1991, she found that her health centre had been destroyed. Undeterred, she and a close friend opened an anti-natal clinic. Since then, she has also started a small pharmacy that is run by her son.

Hodan has delivered close to 1,000 children. "I do it because I have to help these women and children; otherwise, who will? There is always a shortage of good nursing staff and medicine, so there is little motivation for other women to join the nursing profession."

Besides her work with Deeqa, Hodan cares for her children and her husband, who is blind.

Semin Abdulla, Reports Officer WFP Somalia