REMEDY AFTER MALADY

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.

Cash for Work: Panacea to changing lives

Cash for Work Program is a temporary employment given to the most vulnerable crisis-affected population – by assistance organizations. Its aim is to ensure that households are able to meet their food requirements, as well as daily subsistence. This program by NoFYL commenced on July, 2019 and went on consecutively for two months, in all the 8 Camps in Kaxda and Deynille Districts and was completed at the end of August, 2019. It was funded by Somalia Humanitarian Fund (SHF). A total number of 200 beneficiaries were targeted (120 women and 80 men).

Majority of the people involved in the cash for work program were women as a lot of them were the sole providers in their family. The Cash for Work supremely impacted the IDPs colossally. Before the site maintenance, their camp looked overtly different. After the site maintenance, the changes were immensely visible.

Habiba Hassan, 55, from Ceel Hareeri camp in Kaxda was not always fond of her camp and this was due to many things. “Before, the drainage was very poor.” She started, “There was stagnant water everywhere when it rained, but now after the site maintenance, the drainage has improved to a great extent.” She adds, pointing to different areas in the camp where there were small pool of filthy water, painting a stark picture of how different it was before the activities.

Beneficiaries taking part in cash for work program in Kaxda District, Banadir Region.

We also came across Abdullahi Adan, 37, in Osingow camp. A tall, meagre looking man. He had a bushy head, dented cheeks chiseled by the unyielding elements, scabrous skin and sunken eyes. He stopped us as we were wallowing about in the camp and thanked us for the good work, a tad too many times, actually. “I would like to first thank you for giving us work. I also thank you for the changes you made in our camp.” He said, this time holding my hand and my shoulder, albeit in a surprising way. It had a cathartic feeling to it “Do you see any waste around?” He asked, this time circumambulating across the camp. His face was radiant all this time, may be beaming with pride at the good work they have done. “We used to leave waste around, and it piled up but now we not only collect them regularly but we know how to do away with them.”  He says they dig open holes on the ground and bury the waste. Other times they burn it.

He then continues to say how the waste was blithely ignored and dumped with reckless abandon and how the huge deluge of waste hindered accessibility and movements. “Roads in the camp were blocked due to the large waste in many areas and it was not easy to access my house easily, the way to the mosque was filled with waste as well.” He added. “Now after the activities the distance has reduced and this has eased movement.” He finished, this time letting go of my hand and shoulder.

The air was replete with fresh sentiments in all the 8 camps that we implemented the Cash for Work program. All of the different beneficiaries we talked to exuded happiness and painted a complete better picture after the site maintenance activities. The infant steps has started.  The changes was quite ubiquitous. But despite the polished facade, more work needs to be done. They said the activities were planned very well and carried out smoothly. Also, the payments were made on time.

In Dayax camp, we met Fadhumo Mohamud, 36. Never loquacious, Fadhumo was now totally lost for words. “I have a lot to say but I just want to thank you for giving work to me. I paid my debt with the money. I always take foodstuffs from a shop here and pay by the end of the month.” She sighed with relief before continuing, “This two months I did not have any worry about making payments to the shop on time.”

In Al Hidaya camp, we were stopped by Farah Hassan, 35. He was shouting from inside his shop before greeting us with raillery. He said that after receiving his incentives, he saved and opened up the shop, albeit a small one. He didn’t want to spend the money on frivolous wants. “I started by selling fruits and vegetables, but as you can see I have added foodstuffs and am planning to grow it.” He then pointed to a fledgling structure that was under construction. “This has changed my life.” He said before the shop, he would do manual job to support his young family.

In Kun Deeq camp, Amina Samow, 50, says that as much as the cash for work has helped her, she still has comments to make. “All my needs are not covered, and I am requesting for extension of the program the next time.” She says the extension could mean more work and that would mean more money for her. She has 6 children who solely depend on her. For some inexplicable reason, we felt sorry for her.

In Degan Bille camp, Ali Mohamud, 42, decried the infinitesimal amount of incentives given to him. “I have a big family, and I must say the money has helped me in some way but it is not enough to cover everything.” He paused, then continued, “I wish the next time this program comes, the amount of money will be increased.”

In Samawade camp, Mustaf Hassan, 55, said that before the site maintenance, every household used to dump waste in front of their house. It was grotesque to say the least.  “Everyone just threw domestic waste outside sometimes through their windows, it was ugly here but now we have a cleaning routine in the camp and a common place to dump our waste.”

In the same camp, Mama Amina Omar, who was not in the program, wanted to add a comment and show her unreserved appreciation for the stellar work done in her camp. Like many in her camp, she was listening in to our conversation. “We are grateful for the work you have done here, we are breathing fresh air and there is no more bad smell around. All the holes has been filled and I am requesting you to consider me in your program next time.” She finished, smiling and looking away, probably feeling shy from the horde that had gathered around.

We lastly ended at Alan Futow camp, where we met Ikran Abdinasir, 38. She started by thanking us for the program and saying that she used her incentive to buy medicine for her 6-year old child. “The money came at a good time because my boy was sick and I needed it. The rest I used to buy foodstuff.”

Falhad Sheikh Omar, 37, told us that at first her husband did not want her going to work but as the money started sprinkling in, he was okay with it. Her husband, Hussein Mohamed, 45, who is disabled, responded that he didn’t know the money would come in at first but allowed her to go half-heartedly. He also thanked us for the work done in his camp and requested we consider his wife next time.

Cash transfer was the modality used for this intervention and NoFYL provided direct cash transfer via mobile phones to beneficiaries, securing them with the opportunity to spend cash on their prioritized needs to cater the immediate lifesaving necessities.

We left all the tools at their disposal after we extensively agreed with the camp committee that all camps will carry out cleanliness every Thursday going forward. This will be on a voluntary basis.

Livelihood Support Through Cash for Work.

For Abdi Daud, 39, father of five, August is the best month in 2019. This is the month he joined other men and women from his community to work in their camp for a cash for work program, and so, according to him, “this is the month where I did not worry about food for my family”. “Before I was a laborer and would wake up every morning with my tools and look for any work in the market. I would get back home at night and just wait to do the same thing the following day”. The program, supported by the SHF as part of a project to help the recovery of populations affected by the conflict and drought in Somalia, was meant to rehabilitate them while employing people from the camp.
Abdi is involved in cash for work activities in a district of Kaxda which, according to him, is an area that “suffers a shortage in income resources and in work opportunities.” “Providing food for my family is my day and night concern,” he adds, “I am only an ordinary laborer whose only fight is to find a job.”

Lack of household cash affects overall community resilience, as households are unable to purchase necessary food and domestic items, subsequently impacting the community. Lack of cash comes from loss of livelihoods and this can compel people to resort to negative coping strategies, such as reducing the frequency of meals or borrowing money.
“This is a very hard time for people,” He said, “prices keep increasing and finding any work opportunity has become increasingly difficult. There is nothing in our hands. All we can do is to be patient.”
This cash for work program is one of the many NoFYL and SHF are implementing across Somalia to support economic recovery. The idea is to immediately increase the purchasing power of vulnerable households in these areas, providing them with the agency to cover their needs.
Particular attention was given to the long-term sustainability of the projects. Abdi contributes to the rehabilitation works of a camp that was selected through consultation with community representatives of the camps to ensure the sites are relevant and identified by them as the most impactful for the wider community.
Like other beneficiaries of the program, Abdi has no steady income, resources or productive assets, which made it incredibly difficult to ensure food for his family. Through this program, NoFYL was able to employ some 200 workers facing Abdi’s situation.
“Cash is an effective intervention because it allows us to procure exactly what we need because everyone here in the program has different needs,” noted Abdi. “I will open a small shop for my wife from the money that I will receive from the program so that at least we can get something little out of it daily”.
Beneficiaries in most camps considered that cash was best since it allowed them to cover what was not met through other assistance provided. In the short term, the cash transfer program provided vulnerable families the means with which to meet their basic needs. In the medium term, the program supported livelihoods recovery by allowing communities to start businesses or buy tools for their work.
Abdi’s schedule of work is comfortable with standard working hours and with the implementation of the activities that is done during daytime and in public spaces. This work schedule is tailored across the sites of intervention, encouraging women’s participation whenever possible.
Abdi is a father and is looking to that camp that he participates in as evidence that tomorrow can be better for his children and all other children in the area. Though the activity will be ending in two months’ time and he will continue to seek permanent employment opportunities to help his family. He is upbeat that life will be better in the future. He also requested that the number of months for the cash for work program to be increased. Through this program, NoFYL was able to employ some 200 workers facing Abdi’s situation.

Celebrating the 16 days of activism- 2016

16 Days Activism Campaign on No Violence against Women is an annual awareness raising campaign observed globally. The purpose of the campaign is to address policy and legal issues; as well as campaign for the protection of survivors of violence and to call for the elimination of all forms of gender based violence. various communication platforms were used on the days. Platforms such as Intersection, Door to Door, street dialogues

It is estimated that 35% of women and girls worldwide have experienced gender-based violence (GBV). GBV is a social and human rights problem that is rooted in social inequalities among men and women. It is a problem that occurs in all parts of the globe, and while GBV has gained more attention over the years, it remains inadequate.

Pupils from Al-Macruf Primary School poses for picture before the beginning of the sessions

Figure 1: Pupils from Al-Macruf Primary School poses for picture before the beginning of the sessions

Gender-based violence covers child sexual abuse, sex trafficking, sexual assault, domestic violence, early child marriage, violence in schools, female genital mutilation/cutting, forced labor and more. Roughly 70 million women have been married before the age of 18, and 120 million have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point. Even with an alarmingly high number of women and girls suffering different forms of violence every day, fewer than 40% ever report it.

This year, NoFYL is participating in 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence under the campaign’s theme, “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Make Education Safe for All.” As we all know that education is one of the most effective ways to end GBV and is committed to helping make public spaces, schools and homes safe for all women and girls worldwide!

Community Focus Group Discussion with Women on Gender Based Violence- 25th November.

To commemorate International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25th of November NoFYL launched the campaign through conducting community focus group discussions which aimed to more understanding of challenges that women and girls face in relation of SGBV.  Methodologically, 4 focus group discussions were organized with 20 adult women in 3 different groups to identify the forms of GBV, role of communities to prevent violence, reasons and results of GBV in the IDP settlements. The discussions had been set-up with women only to make attendances feel comfortable and to talk freely.

Most women in the discussions identified challenges that displaced women would face on SGBV. Some of attendances have emphasized that challenges and problems for them is being exposed to physical, emotional and sexual abuse as well as exploitation especially during evictions and when they are moving into new camps. These challenges could distress them in general.

The most of violence forms identified were within the family. They identified that with the rise in intimate partner violence marriage decision should be taken carefully with consultations of girls. Education of especially girls should be given a priority and marriage should never be a reason for girls dropping out of school.

Lack of education, depriving women’s rights, social norms, economic conditions were given by women as a risk factor. When women or girls are exposed to abuse, their fear from family and community would prevent them from speaking out and this compromise their safety and security.  In case of violence women are encouraged to come forward and report incidents to get services, incidents happening in schools against girls should be reported, awareness program should be tailored in a way that encourages and enhances the health seeking behaviors of our communities. All participants requested organizations to contribute to empowering women in terms of developing their skills and their coping mechanisms during crisis.

Group Counseling Session on free health opportunities for IDPs in Deynille District camps.

NoFYL community health workers, within the scope of 16 days of activism campaign, has conducted sessions on available health services for refugees and returnees targeting women, boys and girls. During the session subjects of right to health in national and international law, available health opportunities for IDPs were explained to the beneficiaries. The service mapping and referral pathways available were shared with IDPs and contact details of different agencies distributed to support and strengthen referral networks.

Raising Awareness Sessions- World Aid Day, December 1.

Jointly together with previously trained community dialogue facilitators NoFYL conducted community conversations on GBV and HIV prevention and response during the World Aids day. Raising people’s awareness and knowledge about some topics could lead to changing behaviors as seen from the dialogue sessions which were previously conducted. Therefore, during the 16 days of activism campaign community health workers conducted several community conversations jointly with dialogue facilitators on the subjects of understanding of gender-roles in the communities, effects of child marriages on accessing to education, effects of child labor on accessing to education, importance of hygiene at temporary education centers.

International Human Rights Day – 10th of December.

To mark the end of the global 16 Days of Activism on International Human Rights Day on 10th of December, IOM and NoFYL organized an event where school going children share creative songs, poems and pictures.  This year marks the major milestones for NoFYL in curbing GBV in Somali society especially in education sector.

The activity targeted Returnees, IDPs, Refugees and Disabled children. A school awareness session campaign against SGBV was also held. Participants were given a platform to share experiences and discuss community strategies to prevent and protect against SGBV targeting teachers, students and families.

The event was held at Al -Macruf School where there was competition of songs, dance and poetry between pupils from IDP camps in Mogadishu. The chief guest was a spokesperson from Ministry of gender and women affairs.

 

 

Gender Based Violence (GBV) and child abuses are the serious problems in Somalia. The cases of Rapes and other sexual assaults are still prevalent in IDP camps in Mogadishu. These includes; female genital mutilation (FGM), child and forced marriages; domestic violence (including domestic sexual violence), physical abuse and rape.

The violations can be directed to women and children. In Somalia, human rights violations may be extreme due to the increased insecurity, weak rule of law, lack of humanitarian access, and frequent natural hazards.

Campaign schedule had been developed based upon consultations with members of the GBVWG members and demands and needs of beneficiaries determined thorough conducted community focus group discussions and decisions of Women and youth groups.

Conclusion

The 16 Days Campaign ended on December 10 – Human Rights Day- but our collective work to end gender-based violence around the world is throughout the year. Gaps to knowledge of people on GBV issues is high and prevention strategies should be strengthened and health seeking behaviors among women and girls improved.

As prevention strategies of NoFYL on the protection of GBV issues, NoFYL has been continuing its GBV activities in Mogadishu and Gedo through its Community outreach programs since May 2014. On the other hand, ensuring women access to free reproductive health, raising their awareness and promoting women’s dignity will enhance women’s health and protection. Therefore, on the year of 2017, NoFYL will be scaling its prevention and response activities in Elwak district of Gedo region. Prevention from gender-based violence will be ensured through empowering of women and raising awareness of communities. Consequently, the increasing number of women and girl’s safe spaces will ensure to prevent GBV issues as a key strategy for the protection and empowerment of women and girls affected by the conflict and drought.

Organizations working in protection programs have to strengthen the collaboration among each other by producing resources and materials to reinforce advocacy efforts to achieve more peaceful world for women and girls free of gender-based violence.

In Mogadishu NoFYL act as the focal point for information exchange between the agencies involved, spearheads efforts to strengthen the capacity of government authorities and other civil societies and coordinates joint implementation initiatives among agencies.

These initiatives are aimed at building synergies among agencies and promoting efficient utilization of resources by avoiding duplication of efforts. So far The GBV Working Group has established a joint GBV strategy and conducted an GBV baseline in Mogadishu while the Protection Return and Monitoring Network has spearheaded efforts in collecting and Monitoring and Reporting grave violations against children in both Gedo and Mogadishu. NoFYL also spearheaded a joint service mapping exercise on GBV/child protection service providers in Banadir Region.

Rape Culture in Conflicts: A Heirloom?

Throughout history, sexual violence has been tragically prevalent in armed conflict, and often viewed as an unavoidable consequence of warfare. Its preponderance in armed conflict is dismaying. Sexual violence is a conspicuous phenomenon and a common thread in conflict dating back centuries. They are tangled. And it was tacitly accepted as unavoidable. Conflicts often exacerbate and escalate sexual violence. It is organized. It is endemic. It is barbaric. It is vertigo-inducing. It is a pestilence that bedevils the conflicts for donkey’s years. It is a menace that has that has continued to challenge the conscience of humanity – especially in our times. Sexual violence has been documented in long-simmering armed conflicts including those in Bosnia (former Yugoslavia), Peru, Bangladesh, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Somalia and Syria. Despite widespread international attention and condemnation, sexual violence in armed conflict remains pervasive and the task to root it out has become more onerous and pronged.

While the history of wars and conflicts is replete with massive and systematic incidents of sexual violence against vulnerable girls and women, modern-day wars have witnessed large-scale indiscriminate deployment of rape as a ‘weapon’ of war by warring factions. Both the factions visit unconscionable levels of grisly violations upon civilians. They target civilians in a brainless spiral of violence that only ends up making the lives of civilians much more miserable than it already is.

Sexual violence persists as a devastating phenomenon with damaging and detrimental consequences for victims as well as their families and whole communities. It is not confined to African or European conflicts, or to conflicts in developing or developed nations, but is a Global scourge. Additionally, such violations remain vastly under-reported, and underestimated in terms of prevalence and consequences. The humanitarian response to the diverse needs of victims remains insufficient.

Girls and women are often the targets for sexual violence in armed conflict when rape and other forms of sexual abuse and assault are used as deliberate strategies of war. According to UN Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict, the vast majority of casualties in today’s wars are among civilians, mostly women and children. Sexual violence in conflict situations is as much a terrifying crime as a brutal one, wherever it takes place; it has direct and indirect effects on human lives, leaving deep, indelible scars on the victims as well as society itself. Sexual violence permeates the everyday lives of women in conflict. It is inherently humiliating. It is a quintessential violation of individual autonomy that removes an individual’s control over their body. The humiliation are particularly deep-seated.

Despite the fact that it is so widespread, sexual violence has been vastly under reported and the victims have suffered in silence. Because of the shame and the stigma involved, many victims have chosen to remain mum and the atrocities meted out on them are cloaked in silence. The few that are brave enough to come forward are branded as liars. There are cases of women in various countries, who have been forced to marry their abusers (including soldiers) to save them and their families from shame. Women survivors are ostracized from their families and communities, making them more isolated and vulnerable to further abuse.  Yet of extreme concern, the perpetrators remain at large.

There are many reasons for sexual violence in conflict. Rape committed during conflict is often intended to terrorize civilians and subdue communities. For humiliation. Sometimes it’s used to glean information about rival groups to retaliate or exert power. It can also be used as a perk for soldiers to motivate them and as an inducement to courage on the battlefield. It erodes the fabric of a community in a way that few weapons can. As they say, rape is an incredibly effective- and cheaper weapon. Cheaper than bullets, and more destructive in many cases. Rape, and the threat to use it against women is one of the most potent and systematic tools employed to terrify civilians.

Many women who become pregnant as a consequence of rape may attempt to induce abortion, often at great risk to their own health. Women who conceive as a result of rape may not seek pre- or ante-natal care, and children they deliver are often neglected, abused, stigmatized, ostracized or even killed.

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Let’s collectively condemn the sexual violence. We must stop stigmatizing victims and must make their rights and safety the main priority. Let’s put the blame where it belongs, on the rapist and the cultures that endorse it. Let’s not just fight it, let’s also fight the conniving mendacity that allows cruelty to reign. It is a despicable system that only thrives because people are silent about it. Education alone isn’t enough to stop rape in conflicts. That requires society as a whole to condemn and the international community to act.

The runaway bride.

Batulo is 18 years old divorced and a mother to a 3-year-old son, she was brought up by her grandmother since her parents were so poor to support her and her 11 other siblings. When she was 15 years old her father and her grandmother arranged an early marriage for her to a stranger “I had no say in any decision so I silently cried and accepted my fate, and when I was 6 months pregnant he divorced me; rumors were that he had a habit of predating on young girls; all he wanted was to deflower me and off he went for another vicious circle in another city! He duped my poor grandmother and father into his quagmire, they never saw it coming and he never even paid for the dowry he promised them and my father become a laughing stock” she said with a mischievous smile.

The runaway bride. Batulo Story.

Batulo went back to her grandmother home where she delivered her son and lived for 3 years until her current predicament.

“My uncle summoned me to my grandmother’s chambers and together they informed me that they had a suitor for me, my uncle emphasized that he is a very wealthy man though elderly” she said. Batulo went silent and started fondling with her fingers, she was pondering and from the small wrinkle on her nose she looked disturbed, then she cleared her throat and continued “the story was too familiar and I made a vow to myself: never again! Although I knew my input was of very little consequence. But I had to stand for myself so I looked at both of them in the eyes and said NO!” Her grandmother and uncle were baffled it was a taboo for a girl of her age to stand up to her seniors on such matters “my grandmother threaten me with a mother of all curses and I decided to play my last card and I told them that as per Islamic sharia only my father had the jurisdiction over my marriage, I knew that my father was mostly embarrassed and felt duped in my previous marriage scandal and my bet worked he was on my side and asked my uncle not to go against my wish” she paused and gazed in the horizon and she continued “but my father is a very poor man and his stern decision swayed none and my uncle had already taken 2 camels from my so called suitor and my grandmother said that she was the one who brought me up and they made the decision that I marry the old man as his 4th wife!

The ceremony was expedited and to my dismay guards were hired to make sure I don’t escape” she chocked on her words picked up a napkin and blew her nose cleared her throat and continued “but on the day of the wedding after the nikkah everyone was so busy and I found a window and become a runaway bride, it was a very long journey and I got to my father’s shanty in Mogadishu at midnight, I felt like a free bird and slept like a queen. “However, Batulo’s merriment was short-lived, her uncle had disappeared after taking extra 3 camels as dowry from Batulo’s suitor and now the suitor wants his dowry back or his wife since he claims to have been legally married to her. Batulo says “my mother is now pressuring me to go back and settle down as a 4th wife and my father keeps reminding me that he can’t afford to buy 4 camels or trace my uncle, I am now bewildered and confused but am scared that soon my parents may mortgage me off to this old man, I don’t have any energy left in me to fight and I have just decided to sit and wait for my doom again” Narrates Batulo.

Importance Of Girl Child Education

Education is very important for every child whether boy or girl. It is sad that some communities still discriminate against the education of the girl child. About 57million children around the world are not going to school. The report, Children Still Battling to go to School, finds that 95% of the 28.5 million children not getting a primary school education live in low and lower-middle income countries – 44% in sub-Saharan Africa, 19% in south and west Asia and 14% in the Arab states, UNESCO said. Girls make up 55% of the total and were often the victims of rape and other sexual violence that accompanies armed conflicts, UNESCO said. As the world celebrates Malala’s birthday let us look at some of the reasons why girls should get an education.

1.FUTURE EDUCATED GENERATIONS – An African proverb says, “If we educate a boy, we educate one person. If we educate a girl, we educate a family – and a whole nation.” By sending a girl to school, she is far more likely to ensure that her children also receive an education. As many claim, INVESTING in a girl’s education is investing in a nation.^2C1CDAE94D0E73DFE8437D743035AFAF666A4A0BB337525FDB^pimgpsh_fullsize_distr

2.DECREASE INFANT MORTALITY: Children of educated women are less likely to die before their first birthday. Girls who receive an education are less likely to contact HIV & AIDS, and thus, less likely to pass it onto their children. Primary education alone helps reduce infant mortality significantly, and secondary education helps even more. The Girls Global Education Fund reports that when a child is born to a woman in Africa who hasn’t received an education, he or she has a 1 in 5 chance of dying before 5.

3.DECREASE MATERNAL MORTALITY: Educated women (with greater knowledge of health care and fewer pregnancies) are less likely to die during pregnancy, childbirth, or during the postpartum period. Increased education of girls also leads to more female health care providers to assist with prenatal medical care, labor and delivery, delivery complications and emergencies, and follow-up care.

4.DECREASE CHILD MARRIAGE: Child marriage – in some cases involving girls as young as 6 or 8 – almost always results in the end of a girl’s schooling. The result is illiterate or barely literate young mothers without adequate tools to build healthy, educated families. On average, for every year a girl stays in school past fifth grade, her marriage is delayed a year. Educated girls typically marry later, when they are better able to bear and care for their children.

5.DECREASE POPULATION EXPLOSION: Educated women tend to have fewer (and healthier) babies. A 2000 study in Brazil found that literate women had an average of 2.5 children while illiterate women had an average of six children, according to UNESCO.

6.INCREASE INVOLVEMENT IN POLITICAL PROCESS: Educated women are more likely to participate in political discussions, meetings, and decision-making, which in turn promotes a more representative, effective government.

7.DECREASE DOMESTIC & SEXUAL VIOLENCE: Educated girls and women are less likely to be victims of domestic and sexual violence or to tolerate it in their families.

8.DECREASE SUPPORT FOR MILITANCY: As women become more educated, they are less likely to support militancy and terrorism than similarly educated men.

9.IMPROVE SOCIOECONOMIC GROWTH: Educated women have a greater chance of escaping poverty, leading healthier and more productive lives, and raising the standard of living for their children, families, and communities.

These and many more are some of the valuable reasons why we should all support education for girls. For every boy that is educated, every girl should be educated too.

WHAT WOULD IT TAKE TO IMPROVE GIRLS’ ACCESS TO EDUCATION?

According to UNICEF, experience in scores of countries shows the importance, among other things, of:

1.Parental and community involvement — Families and communities must be important partners with schools in developing curriculum and managing children’s education.

2.Low-cost and flexible timetables — Basic education should be free or cost very little. Where possible, there should be stipends and scholarships to compensate families for the loss of girls’ household labour. Also, school hours should be flexible so children can help at home and still attend classes.

3.Schools close to home, with women teachers — Many parents worry about girls travelling long distances on their own. Many parents also prefer to have daughters taught by women.

4.Preparation for school — Girls do best when they receive early childhood care, which enhances their self-esteem and prepares them for school.

5.Relevant curricula — Learning materials should be relevant to the girl’s background and be in the local language. They should also avoid reproducing gender stereotypes.

Malala Yousafzi, the Pakistani schoolgirl brought to England after being shot in the head by the Taliban, will address the United Nations today. She will mark her 16th birthday by delivering a speech at the UN headquarters in New York to call on governments to ensure free compulsory education for every child.

It will be the teenager’s first public speech since she was attacked on a bus in Pakistan’s north-western Swat valley after standing up for her right to go to school in her home country.

She will tell a delegation of more than 500 young people: “Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons.

“One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first.”

 
 
 
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