Women in Somalia are reconnecting in the middle of decades of conflict and displacement

MOGADISHU (AXADLE) For more than 30 years, Somalia has been embroiled in a deep economic, political and social crisis in which its citizens suffer the most.

They have tolerated mass displacement, loss of loved ones in ongoing conflict, and destruction of basic services for decades. The protracted violence has also split the bonds of friendship between communities that had lived in peace.

“People suddenly distrusted each other,” said Abdiwahab Bissle, an expert on social stabilization at the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

He remembers how the Civil War changed the social dynamics of many cities across the country. “Most of Somalia’s armed clashes were and are being fought in the name of the clans, which has affected relations between communities.”

The people of Somalia are divided into many clans that have shaped societies for centuries. But it was during the 1990s that their peaceful coexistence became fragmented and the struggles for political power became deadly.

Since then, many of the country’s deepest problems have been defined by clan-related conflict over access to land and water, exacerbated by violent extremist groups and environmental degradation.

“Yet traditional clan elders and women’s groups are a primary source of conflict mediation and have served as a deterrent to armed violence,” Abdiwahab added.

Working with community leaders and women’s groups has been effective in restoring peace in many Somali communities. One such example can be found in Dhusamareeb, the capital of Galmudug State, where the IOM supports the government’s peace-building efforts among communities that have historically been in conflict.

Community-based vote

Since the beginning of the Civil War, the people of Dhusamareeb had been under the influence of one ideological group, but internal tensions arose among the group due to disagreements over the type of state that the citizens wanted for their future. This divided the inhabitants into two ideological groups, despite the fact that they belonged to the same clan.

Over time, power passed from one group to another, depending on the prevailing dynamics. Two years ago, local elections escalated the existing tensions and led to a stalemate that separated the winners and losers. This particularly affected the relationship between two groups of women who had traditionally been neighbors with common interests.

“As a female candidate for the Senate, it is challenging for me to pursue my political ambition, knowing that groups of women in my backyard are divided,” explained Hani *, who is running for federal politics.

Appointments to the city council and to other key organizations have become contentious issues. Women’s groups distrust each other and compete for support from influential members of society – far from the relationship about a decade ago, where women from both groups worked together, sharing happy moments while also supporting each other in times of need.

To reunite them, the Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development (MoWHRD) in Galmudug organized a mediation and reconciliation workshop with the participation of 100 women from both the pro-government and opposition sides.

“The IOM supported the government to train and provide space for influential female leaders from the two political sides to discuss and brainstorm their respective complaints,” Abdiwahab said. The dialogue enabled the groups to unite and create a unity of purpose.

Childhood friends Xalwo *, a 56-year-old businesswoman, and Faduma *, a 55-year-old religious teacher, shared their views on how the mediation process healed divisions and revived communication between them.

“I felt disappointed with my friends who left their sheikhs (religious leaders) and decided to promote the formation of the current government,” said Faduma, who had moved to another city when tensions flared up.

Xalwo and Faduma now enjoy each other’s company and advice without arousing suspicion from the leaders of the women’s groups. They have revived their tradition of sharing tea and popcorn and ordering goods together for their businesses to minimize costs.

“The conciliation negotiations allowed us to sincerely air our complaints from both sides, and that has led to us erasing our disagreements,” Xalwo explained. “Our small tea meetings are invaluable, so it’s important that our two groups unite.”

Following the Reconciliation Workshop, communication between broader members of both groups was restored and consolidated at subsequent meetings, as they were encouraged to work together in community activities.

Women are now able to live their lives in a more peaceful way. Xalwo oversees reading and writing instruction and henna decoration at a local women’s community center. “Thank God! I’m relieved that we were able to continue with the program without interruption,” she says.

These and similar initiatives involving women in peacebuilding and community reconciliation are in line with UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. They also follow the IOM’s approach to guaranteeing women’s full participation in peacebuilding processes and with the organization’s overall commitment to mainstream gender in its programs and activities.

“This reflects the important roles that women play in our society and we want to make sure that they are represented in the political spheres and that their rights are secured and protected in our society,” said Ubax Hussein Diblawe, Minister for Women in Galmudug. . , speaks during the community reconciliation activity.

As much as the relationship between women has thawed, Somalia remains fundamentally unstable and there is still a need to build on and deepen the newly established unity and goodwill that was the result of mediation efforts. However, Xalwo offers hope for the future. “We are all women and there are no winners if we are divided.”

This year, IOM launched a project known as Daryeel – meaning “care” in Somali – which incorporates many years of best practice to deliver IOM’s integrated community stabilization strategy, optimized by a combination of local presence, multisectoral expertise and nuanced context. acumen.

The reconciliation of women’s groups in Dhusamareeb was carried out under the IOM’s Midnimo II project thanks to funding from the UN Peacebuilding Fund.

* Some names have been changed to protect identities.

(Source: IOM)

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