Fight against sexual violence in Somaliland: “Now we report to the police”

Success story - 2018-09-24
More women chose to report rape cases to the police in Somaliland, putting perpetrators behind bars while challenging the customary settlements through the traditional courts.
CCS, seed grant, Somaliland, women's rights, livelihood
Members of the general committee organising against rape. Photo: Agnes Nygren

A hungry man is an angry man, Bob Marley sings. Many are likely to associate this song to the struggle against an oppressive system. It is also a point the women of the General Committee linked to NGO Committee of Concerned Somalis (CCS) keeps coming back to.

The twelve women all represent different sub committees that in turn represent an area for so called internally displaced people in Hargeisa, Somaliland, and home to around 6 000 people. Their struggle is not one directed towards a state or a colonialist, as Mr. Marley suggested. Their struggle is directed towards the violence that follows poverty.

- When the man comes home hungry and there is no food on the table he turns to violence out of frustration, committee chairperson Koos Awpahir explains.

 Partnerorganisation CCS, Somaliland, kvinnors rättigheter och mikrolån Koos Aw-Dahir
Koos Awdahir. Foto: Agnes Nygren

Gender based and sexual violence remains high in Somaliland. With a young state, following decades long civil war, many functions of society are still administered by traditional authority.

One of the most extreme forms of male violence is rape. Just a few years ago the traditional authority would have been the go to point. Not anymore. Koos explains why:

- The traditional court is the source of the problem to why rape and sexual violence continue. Their only solution is to marry the victim off to the perpetrator. This model poses no real risk for him [perpetrator] and it certainly doesn’t work to break the norm.

- Now we go to the police and report all rape cases. We have put several men behind bars for 15 to 20 years. That’s a consequence that would make someone think twice, Koos explains.

It is astonishing that a community, a people, who for so long have lived without a state or a legal system are so quick to abandon the system they have always known. Apart from the ability to adapt and venture into solutions that fit them better it is also an indication of the trust they feel for the still weak state and its legal arm. 

Forum Syd partner CCS has together with the women groups worked on awareness raising activities on Gender based violence and Female Genital Mutilation; sensitive issues where victims and support networks need to know best way of actions, referral routes and services available.

For the hungry and thus angry man, the women also found a solution for. By acquiring a loan of 30 000 US dollar they run a cooperative micro loan scheme amongst themselves. Each week every woman pays a membership fee of 1 US dollar. The pot of money is given as a loan to one of its members, and so it rotates once a month. Investments are then made into charcoal, kitchen equipment, smaller grocery shops or similar.

- We have become providers, that alone decrease violence, but it also gives us a stronger voice in our community. One we use to further our advocacy efforts in support of women, Koos continues. 

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