Hafsa Adan* is a 25-year old mother of two. When we first met her, she was sitting outside her house, her 1-year old baby tightly on her back. The other child, a 3-year old boy was playing callously not far from the mother. She was busy with chores but was occasionally interrupted by her son’s incessant cries. She was unperturbed by it. Her face told of a story replete with oppression, cruelty and debilitating poverty. She often wore a smile for her children but underneath the mask was a sea of sheer pain. She saw us and welcomed us, her facade now masked the despair. Looking at her throws you into an emotional tailspin. You’d tell that she has been through hell and back. Her visibly gaunt face was inundated with worries.
“I met my husband when I was 18-years old,” she started. “Ours was an arranged marriage but when I met him for the first time, I found him to be handsome and charming.” She adds, while shyly looking away. She regales us with a brief story of how happy they were in the early phase of their marriage. “My wedding day was the happiest day of my life. Our first year of marriage was problem free.” Hafsa tell us that her husband’s behavior changed after their first child was born. The cracks started to appear and he became very abusive.
His behavior made her feel like she was crazy. In subtle ways he tried to control her actions and thoughts. “My husband was quite controlling from the moment we had our first child, and the abuse started and it just escalated from there and got worse.” She retorted. “I was choked, beaten, thrown into walls and made to feel completely worthless.” She said, rather nonchalantly. There was a stifling silence as she narrates the searing account of violence that had visited her household over the years. What was there was an astoundingly massive chasm of mistrust, indifference and hostility.
“I have had blood coming from my nose from his kicks and beatings. I have wounds from his kicks and beating.” Hafsa says, this time sobbing uncontrollably. Every time she asks him on why he behaves like that, it induced more violence and her remonstrations earned her a torrent of fists and boots. He surges in a phalanx of rage, and visits unconscionable level of violence upon her. He bludgeons and batter and bruises. He trumpets and rumbles and ruins and rampages like he has the demons. He was raspy. He oozes a slimy stream of lunacy from the mouth and other body orifices.
Figure 1: Hafsa and her child being received by NoFYL case worker
Her little children, were unaware of the sheer terror their mother is battling. She then stood up and lifted her dress to show a huge indelible scar on her abdominal region. Makes one feel sick to the pit of the stomach.
Hafsa says that her husband would sometimes make snide comments on her. He would degrade her and make her feel completely worthless. She is wallowing in self-pity. Being in a relationship like this one has left a deep-rooted self-dislike in her, of colossal proportions.
Few days ago, after some fatuous disagreement, her husband descended on her and in his quintessential nastiness, nearly broke her arm. She laid there, on the ground. Her heart stopped pumping, her limbs laid about in lifeless, abject lethargy. He switches off his brains, or whatever it is that he has in its place. She says she screamed for help because she thought he wanted to kill her. The neighbors rescued her and took her away from the vile man. Her husband ran away fearing for his life from the angry throng.
“He is an animal, look at the marks he left on my body.” She said. And then continued, “What kind of a person does this to his fellow human being, his own wife and mother to his children?” She asked as we looked in disgust at the nefarious marks and couldn’t comprehend why he would do that to his own wife.
“The shame kicks in,” She says. “Am just glad I survived the ordeal.” She says her two children was the only reason she stayed and that she was afraid he would kill her any day, in one of his brainless spiral of violence.
It is now some weeks since her husband was last seen. With the help of NoFYL, Hafsa has relocated to a different camp with her children, incase her husband returns and decides to attack her. She says she doesn’t want anything to do with him and she wants a divorce.
“I want a divorce. He should give me one. I told him that since that first time he put his hands on me but both our family met and we solved it.” She says there is nothing to solve now even as her family insists on her forgiving her husband and returning home.
NoFYL did a case management and provided her with psychosocial support and medical treatment. We also do a follow up on her.
“I am thankful to NoFYL for everything,” she paused, her face radiant with a smile, probably hoping that the future will be bright and sides with both her and her children. “Thank you for all that you did and continue to do, I feel completely safe here.” She finished. Hafsa went from a broken woman and her life changed to this magical giddying heights. You could just tell she was happy and free.
We also provided Hafsa and other 450 survivors of gender-based violence with dignity kits in Kismayo. Not only has the kits enabled women to walk with confidence, it has also provided dignified life by reducing the risk of women becoming victims of sexual violence as they go on with their lives. Seeing Hafsa with a genuine smile and hearing words of gratitude from her and other recipients during the recent distribution was an affirmation of the incredible impact that Dignity Kits brings to displaced persons.
“I left my home in a hurry, and I didn’t have time to carry all my things. I wear the same cloth everyday but am very happy NoFYL helped me with new cloths and soaps, now I can change into something nice.” She added. “They have helped many of us with same or even worse situations and we are grateful.”
Halimo* is a 16-year old internally displaced person from Galbeet IDP settlement in Kismayo district, Somalia. She has been NoFYL’s beneficiary of forced marriage incident. “I am happy to receive the dignity kits, it will go far to boosting my confident and allow me and many people here to have some gut to walk around unlike before when people were calling me names for not having good clothes.” She then continues, “My uncle tried to marry me off to an elderly man but thankfully through intervention of this organization and the support of my mother, I managed to escape.” She added, then caught her breath before continuing, “With the Dignity Kit I will be able to have more confidence to go to school even during menstruation period since no one will notice it and this has given me inner peace.” She finished, then waved at us as a sign of appreciation.
The dignity kits symbolically represent hope and a lifetime gift to many displaced people, bringing opportunities to those who had none before.
NoFYL aims to improve the dignity and psychosocial wellbeing of women and girls in crisis situations through provision of dignity supplies and solar lamps to survivors of GBV and vulnerable women who are at risk of GBV.
We want to express our unreserved appreciation to Somalia Humanitarian Fund (SHF) for their prodigious amount of support and for the support to empower these communities and send you reports of more positive results that are certain to come.