UN launches 16 Days of Activism; Urging an End to Violence Against women and Girls in Somalia

27 Nov 2023

UN launches 16 Days of Activism; Urging an End to Violence Against women and Girls in Somalia

Mogadishu -The United Nations on Monday reaffirmed its commitment to ending gender-based violence (GBV) and advancing women’s rights in Somalia, at the launch event of the annual 16 Days of Activism campaign.

Top officials from the global body, including, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia (SRSG), Ms. Catriona Laing, Head of UN Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS), Assistant Secretary-General Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, the DSRSG/RC/HC Goerge Conway and the Head of UN Women Somalia, Sadiq Syed, presided over the event.

The officials called for a collective effort by the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), Federal Member States (FMS), the civil society, the Somali people and international partners to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.

“Gender-based violence is one of the most prevalent human rights violations faced by women in Somalia. Women and girls experience violence of different sorts, including physical violence, emotional abuse, rape, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), and child marriage. This negative trend is being countered through the UN logistical support aimed at facilitating our counterpart's delivery on the protection of civilians, where women and girls constitute 80 percent of the population at risk,” said Ms Kacyira.

She highlighted some of the strides the mission has taken in its efforts to put an end to heinous crimes, particularly sexual violence. 

“For instance, all the troops undergo mandatory pre-deployment training on how to respond to and identify cases of sexual violence, enabling ATMIS to support the protection of civilians.”

The Head of UNSOS underscored that violence against women and girls is an “appalling and pervasive violation of human rights” serving as a disincentive to collective efforts to build a just and equal society where all human beings can live in peace and dignity. 

“There will be no peace, so long as violence against women and girls persists. Our efforts to support peace, security, and development will never be enough if half of the world continues to be disproportionately affected by gender-based violence and is being prevented from realizing their full potential,” she emphasized. 

In a statement, UN Special Representative for Somalia Ms. Catriona Laing stressed the need to invest in various strategies to end this “horrendous” vice.

 “The adoption of legislation to strengthen the protection of all persons from gender-based violence, greater support for survivors, and accountability for perpetrators of gender-based violence is of great necessity,” she added.

Founded by activists in 1991, the 16 Days of Activism, is an annual global campaign advocating for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls. 

This year’s theme “UNITE! Invest to prevent violence against women and girls” encourages citizens to share steps they are taking to create a future free of gender-based violence. Governments worldwide are urged to report on their investments in preventing gender-based violence.

Somalia has faced drought, and the current cyclone from El Nio has caused floods, impacting 1.2 million people globally, including in Somalia. Most of the displaced population, at least 80%, are women and girls. This further exacerbating gender-based violence.

“According to a study conducted by the UN Women and launched last week, out of the total development budget, which runs into billions globally, only 0.2 percent of the budget is allocated towards ending violence against women and girls,” said Sadiq Syed, the Head of UN Women Somalia.

Amid ongoing floods, the recurrent conflicts and the myriad challenges faced by women and girls in Somalia Batulo Sheikh, Chairperson of the Somalia National Women's Organization, commended the UN for its continued support in combating violence against women and girls. 

 “We wish and hope for a future devoid of violence for women and girls,” she added. 

Iqbaal Abdi, a representative of the Somali Women Development Centre (SWDC), a human rights non-governmental organization, echoed the remarks drawing attention to the UN’s instrumental role in lobbying for stronger laws, such as the Sexual Offences Bill (SOB), to prevent violence against women and girls,

At the campaign launch, participants planted trees to symbolize hope and solidarity with survivors of gender-based violence and commissioned a water point to represent everyone’s right to clean water. 

According to the UN, many Somali women and girls are at significant risks of falling victim to sexual and gender-based violence due to the long distances travelled to access water points.

The annual 16 Days of Activism campaign runs from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, to 10 December, the International Human Rights Day; with the goal of raising awareness, supporting advocacy efforts, and sharing information and innovations to end violence against women.


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