Somali women raise their voices

The UK WILPF’s Voices of African Women Campaign (VoAW) has been working in conjunction with the Voices of Somali Women’s Movement (VSWM) to make significant steps forward in campaigning for Somali women’s rights.  The movement, which is affiliated to WILPF UK, was launched in 2012 with the support of WILPF which helped bring together different groups of Somali women under one banner.

On a trip to the capital of Mogadishu, two WILPF members, originally from Somalia, spent time visiting organizations on the ground, including the Somali National Women’s Organisation, who gave their full support and encouragement to VSWM’s work.  After a major meeting with the national group VSWM identified the need to focus on initiatives for women’s enterprise and social and economic empowerment.  After visiting casualties in Internally Displaced People camps they are also very motivated to advocate for the peaceful resettlement of displaced women and children.

In the UK, WILPF sent a letter to William Hague calling for the participation of Somali women at the International Conference on Somalia in London, hosted by David Cameron.   As a result, two women from the group received invitations to attend a preliminary discussion on women in the UK diaspora and Somalia at London’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

The VoAW coordinator worked with the Somali women to put together a briefing paper on the current situation and concerns to highlight the issues facing Somali women today, and to increase the UK government’s understanding of how they can make a practical difference to Somali women’s lives.  The meeting was a great opportunity for Somali women’s voices to be heard and Somali WILPF women spoke about the real need for security for women.

Key areas of focus include:

  • To resettle the Internally Displaced Persons internationally and in Somalia, providing more attention to casualties.
  • To create effective initiatives for social and economic empowerment, focusing on women’s enterprise.
  • To involve Diaspora women in the UK as “we want to work with women in Somalia, we have seen what is going on and we want to rebuild our country”.

UK WILPF and VoSW are acting on the issues raised and continuing to lobby the government with recommendations based on the research carried out in Somalia and through discussions with Somali women’s groups.  VSWM is driven to rebuild Somalia and with the efforts and support of the VoAW campaign, it will continue to pressurise the UK and Somali governments on their commitment to women and civil society.

To find out more or get involved please contact the VoAW coordinator Holly Ahom at the WILPF office.

The VoAW group is taking a break over the summer but will reconvene with the next meeting to be scheduled in September.

The current situation in Somalia:

After a long civil war of more than 21 years, the new government represents a new phase for women in Somalia. In the public sphere, there is a new constitution and political landscape that women are campaigning to enter. In the private sphere, women are raising their voices on gender based violence including on issues such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage.  Issues surrounding women’s socio-economic empowerment should also be a priority as they are the foundation of Somalia’s development and post-conflict reconstruction.