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Our world not yours!

Gender Based Violence (GBV) is not something new that has just started, it’s been there for centuries and it includes much more than sexual assault and rape. Women worldwide had experienced it in one way or another everyday and Somali women are not exceptional. They had experienced it in different ways whether it’s been domestic violence or rape or FGM and the list goes on and on.

Everyday we receive a list of victims who experienced GBV who needs support and wonder in every second why all this happen continuously without or little hope it is going to end anytime soon. I attend GBV working group meetings and my heart crashes into million pieces when I hear the horrible news of women been raped, been assaulted physically or even those who experienced female genital mutilation (FGM) and so on and so forth.

Every time I am walking on the street from work or shopping or anywhere else, I walk looking over my shoulders fearing that something bad might gonna happen to me. Sometimes I might stay indoors if its late or dark at night fearing that if I go out who knows what might happen to me, and might even miss an important deadline to submit assignments or reports because of not been able to just walk around and visit internet cafes and do my business without been scared. This is not only me but there are thousands of other women who are scared more than me, who are afraid if they go out after 6.00PM something bad might happen to them and instead of fulfilling their duties safely.

Somali culture is not yet sensitive to all the issues surrounding women; women frequently suffer from discrimination, including rape and Female Genital mutilation. The ability of women to seek recourse to the law with respect to matters of gender-based violence is very limited. I want my charity to combat these issues and fight for change so that women can achieve their lawful rights. Despite the obligations under international and national laws in protecting women, still the violence continuous widely and been tolerated whereby the perpetrators go unpunished.

In every armed conflict, women and children are the most vulnerable ones who are victimized for crimes they have never committed. They are silenced and never given the chance to express their views or concerns, nobody bothers asking them what they think or if they have different ideas to include when there a decision to be taken.

Rape and the way it has been shunned in the Somali community as if it has never occurred are inhumane and unmerited. For the women whose dignity, humanity and self respect has been stolen through rape, avoiding the topic when all other aspects of the war are discussed is simply unfair, and chauvinistic marginalization that warrants some debate to shed light on the horrendous ordeal that has transpired on the bodies of the most innocent and meek of society. In the least, the topic warrants an awareness to disgrace those that partook the painful infliction of everlasting dishonour on daughters, mothers, sisters and grandmothers, even children as young as two years of age.

In Somalia, Women suffer silently as the psychological impacts of rape are profound and never dealt with for cultural reasons. There are feelings of isolation, shame, and a continuous blame. Pain and suffering is stamped on entire families as the devastation of rape erodes the fabric of the community. The suspect and hate that these reprehensible acts against women have created are evident in all Somali communities today where there is much mistrust and polarization. Somalia women are not only victims of conflict, they are important actors who hold a key role in reconciliation and peacebuilding processes in Somalia.

Every time people come for a meeting to discuss the GBV and the implications it has on women, mainly they discuss how to support the victims, and I wonder why can’t we come up with ways of reducing this horrible act which affects one’s soul profoundly. Why do we always have to think ways of just providing support on the victims rather than fighting the injustice this act causes to women. I am not saying we have to stop supporting the victims but rather am advocating for bringing the perpetrators to justice. They have to pay the price they caused and not the poor women who have been violated. It seems like perpetrator are not brought to justice in most of the cases. This has to end soon and right now.

Public awareness raising campaigns and education initiatives would be one of the best ways to eliminate this awful act of violence. Educating both men/boys and women/girls for their respective rights and the rights of others will also enhance the collaboration and coordination in preventing the spread of the gender based violence. There is a need to carry a wider effort in educating every member of the community to know his or her own rights. In this way many people will be able to approach the working legal systems in place and demand their rights. Many cases go undocumented or responded due to the stigma associated with it and this needs to be ended. Underreporting is also a significant barrier to justice. Many women feel shame and fear rejection from their husbands, families, and communities if they report having been raped. Women who faced violence are again been blamed and this is not fair.

On the other hand, since one of the most places women and girls face violence is when they are outside or their camps (those who are internally displaced people) is by providing fuel directly to them which will reduce if not eliminate the need for women and girls to risk outside of the camp or settlement to search for firewood. Although direct provision of fuel is expensive and cannot be sustained over the long term, this is an effective protection strategy that should be considered. Moreover, humanitarian aid workers should also consider in ways of improving the accessibility of victims to the legal frame worker available in the state and authorities have to place a firm law against perpetrators and punish them for their crimes. Providing only support after the incident took place will not be sufficient if the aggressors go unpunished, there has to be working mechanism in preventing the violence to happen in the first place. Establishing income-generation initiatives for both boys and girls will also reduce or rather eliminate the violence against women as many perpetrators’ acts are caused by been unemployed and have got nothing to do or lose even if they end up in jails.

Mostly women are always at the forefront of peace and reconciliation, they rally and mobilize. They are always beside men, never behind them, but sometimes men ignore their advice and inspirations and also do not include them in the decision making. Women’s perspective and experience should matter in creating an everlasting peace and stability. Much of the burden of conflict is carried by women and children. But many feel empowered and energized by the recent recognition that lasting peace requires active and strong female participation. Women should be included in the decision making. Their perspectives and experiences should be taken into account. Peace is not merely a political desire but it is a necessity of life and it can’t be restored by only men. Mostly of women’s efforts go unrecognized and this needs to be changed. I challenge you all, every man in this world that we women are not objects or toys to be played with, but rather an important members of each and every community and we need our share in deciding what is our rights and what is best for us.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Ending Violence Against Women Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring an end to gender-based violence. The EVAW Campaign elicits powerful content from women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as vocal grassroots leaders, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
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Comments

cece's picture

God Bless You

Thank you for sharing! I honestly am speechless after reading this. I don't know how you women are living through this but whatever you are doing, no matter how little it is, keeping doing it until you can get more involved. You are doing something you are getting the word ou and having hope. Don't stop that.

Love

Cece

We are blessed to have many Sisters!

Cece

Kadidia's picture

Somalia

Hello Ruun,

You are a brave young women. I do have respect for you as I know what is going on in your country,
You are right to be careful and to organize your lives according to the circumstances on the ground.

Whenever there is a war, it is the opportunity for males of both parties to commit all kind of abuses. One wonders sometimes if they realize that they are not the only human beings.

Know that all women outside of Somalia support your efforts. Sometimes, a silent resistance works better than any other dramatic ways. Stay strong and be organized.

Kadidia Doumbia

Sarah Whitten-Grigsby's picture

Dear Ruun, you are so right!

Dear Ruun,

First, thank you so very much for your excellently presented, honest, powerful testimony, and for the solutions you present, which are at the very heart of the issues of Gender Based Violence.

Here in the United States, as we mourn for the 20 little children who were shot in Connecticut last week, we ask and ask what can be done to prevent senseless violence, especially against defenseless children. And you are so right, that aside from providing loving support to survivors and victims, we must find every way to pro-actively stop senseless cruelty and violence before it happens. Although there will always be evil in the world and we can never stop all violence, we must focus on any and all actions that will prevent perpetration of these crimes.

In your meetings regarding GBV, can you perhaps ask that meetings begin -- or end -- with focus on the punishment of the perpetrators? Can you invite a legal presence to be with you at your meetings to support and advise you regarding how to begin to turn attention on re-educating your men regarding the enormous value (and power!) of women? Can you insist on creating a pro-active facet to your GVB working group meetings?

Also, your wise illustration of how providing fuel to camps, so that women will not be forced to leave the safety of their camps and thus put themselves in danger, is another excellent place to focus your attention, and the attention of the humanitarian aid organizations.

There are no easy answers, nor any solution that will happen even remotely fast enough, but you have clearly seen and articulated exactly where the work must start, so that there won't be more and more victims of GVG for which more and more support is needed, rather than fewer and fewer victims of GVB, while work takes place to stop it before it happens.

Ruun, you are taking very strong and valuable steps to help the women of your community and all of DRC. Please keep writing and speaking out.

Thank you, Ruun, for all that you have done, are doing and will do to improve the lives of women in DRC. We are listening, and we hear you.

With Respect and Compassion,

Sarah

Beverly Rose's picture

Dear Ruun, Thank you for

Dear Ruun,

Thank you for sharing such a powerful story that not only addresses the issue of violence against women, but also offers suggestions on how to improve women's safety.

I totally hear you when you ask why people seem to be afraid to address the issue of why the violence happens. Yes, victim support is crucial, but we need to shift the paradigm to that the violence doesn't happen in the first place. In my role as a sex assault/domestic violence advocate, I often hear 'why does she stay?' instead of 'why does he do it?'.

I am grateful for you and your work in helping to end violence against women. No one is safe until we all are safe. Please keep writing and sharing with your sisters across the globe.

In peace,
Beverly

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