<strong>20 Somali girls subjected to FGM in Kismayu – UNFPA Representative condemns act</strong>

20 Somali girls subjected to FGM in Kismayu – UNFPA Representative condemns act

Somali women at an alternative rite of passage training session conducted by UNFPA in Mogadishu. UNFPA is raising the alarm after 20 girls this underwent FGM in Kismayu, Somalia’s Jubbaland state. Image credit: UNFPA

The UN sexual and reproductive health agency, UNFPA, is raising the alarm after 20 girls underwent the proscribed female genital mutilation (FGM) in Kismayu, Somalia’s Jubbaland state, indicating the tough road ahead to end the practice.

The incident this week came amid strong campaigns by government officials to educate parents to end one of the most prevalent but dangerous rites of passage in Somalia.

UNFPA’s Somalia Representative Niyi Ojuolape on Friday condemned the incident which he said had subjected the girls to injury and heavy bleeding.

“All the victims are too young to give their informed consent. This is a shocking and deeply disturbing incident that violates the rights of these young girls and should have no place in the society,” the UNFPA representative said in a statement released on Friday.

Grim FGM figures

In Somalia, the UNFPA gives grim figures on FGM, indicating that as many as nine in ten women have undergone some form of FGM. And despite the practice having devastating health ramifications for women and girls, including pain, bleeding, possible permanent disability or death, cultural barriers have mostly stood in the way of ending it.

The UN sexual and reproductive health agency, UNFPA, is raising the alarm after 20 girls underwent the proscribed female genital mutilation (FGM) in Kismayu, Somalia’s Jubbaland state, indicating the tough road ahead to end the practice.

The incident this week came amid strong campaigns by government officials to educate parents to end one of the most prevalent but dangerous rites of passage in Somalia.

UNFPA’s Somalia Representative Niyi Ojuolape on Friday condemned the incident which he said had subjected the girls to injury and heavy bleeding.

“All the victims are too young to give their informed consent. This is a shocking and deeply disturbing incident that violates the rights of these young girls and should have no place in the society,” the UNFPA representative said in a statement released on Friday.

Grim FGM figures

In Somalia, the UNFPA gives grim figures on FGM, indicating that as many as nine in ten women have undergone some form of FGM. And despite the practice having devastating health ramifications for women and girls, including pain, bleeding, possible permanent disability or death, cultural barriers have mostly stood in the way of ending it. 

These days though, public policy makers and politicians have publicly spoken against it, a significant improvement from the days when discussing the subject was taboo. The country has not yet passed a law to ban FGM but has been working with UN agencies to spread awareness of the dangers of the practice.

‘Dear Daughter’ campaign

Earlier this year, the UNFPA launched a campaign known as ‘Dear Daughter’, encouraging parents to individually pledge in open letters to protect their daughters from any harmful cultural practices including FGM. The campaign was suitable especially since most of the parents had undergone the practice while still young but admitted experiencing the problems of FGM even in their later lives.

UNFPA says the campaign teaches parents and societies in general how FGM is a human rights violation issue as it is a form of gender-based violence and which exposes children to danger.

On Friday, Mr Ojuolape said FGM should be condemned because “it causes irreparable physical and psychological harm to women and girls”.

FGM is the partial or total removal of the female genitalia.

“Sadly, the drought and the humanitarian crisis have increased the risk that Somali girls face as a result of this practice,” he said.

“I stand in solidarity with the young girls who were affected by this incident and condemn this act of violence. I also want to assure the Somali people that UNFPA has taken immediate note of this situation and is working closely with the government of the Jubbaland State of Somalia as well as like-minded partners to address it.”

Emergency support

Somalia’s prevalent FGM is only one form of threat targeting women and girls. A three-year drought has meant that more people need emergency health and food support. A situational report by the UN Children’s agency, UNICEF, said early this month that at least 6.7 million children were in danger of starvation with at least 1.5 million children likely to be malnourished by Christmas Day this year. More than one million people have been displaced, most of who are women and children, due to drought.

So far, UN agencies working in concert with local authorities say they have supplied some 1.1 million children and women with essential healthcare services, against the initial target of 1.3 million. Reaching these groups is also often affected by the security situation on the ground as Al-Shabaab militants have often blockaded certain parts of the country where drought is also biting.

As the FGM is largely a man-made problem, UNFPA is calling on Somali authorities to punish perpetrators of the practice.

“I call on the government to take all necessary measures to ensure that those responsible for this incident are held accountable, to serve as a deterrence to others, and to protect the rights of women and girls.

“I also urge the federal government and the international community to take swift and proactive measures to help eradicate the practice of female genital mutilation,” said the UNFPA Somalia country representative.

Source: The East African/Aggrey Mutambo

UNFPA takes part in Dalbile Youth Fund Startups and Social Enterprise Awards Ceremony

UNFPA takes part in Dalbile Youth Fund Startups and Social Enterprise Awards Ceremony

UNFPA took part in the Dalbile Youth Fund Mogadishu Startups and Social Enterprise Awards Ceremony. The Dalbile Youth Fund aims to help vulnerable youth who lack access to economic opportunities access financing to start their own businesses and social enterprises.

There were 42 Startups and 2 Social Enterprises who now have access to financing for their business ideas in the Banadir Region thanks to Dalbile Youth Fund.

Activism beyond 16 days: GBV war as a critical lifesaving response

Activism beyond 16 days: GBV war as a critical lifesaving response

Gender-based violence (GBV) is globally endemic. It plagues societies regardless of their wealth or poverty, or whether they are at peace or in conflict. Its global presence and prevalence are shocking!

One in three women across the world endures some form of GBV in their lifetime. Yet, it is not widely understood that GBV does not only refer to physical violence, but also includes sexual violence, emotional and psychological abuse, harmful practices, and even economic coercion. And that the perpetrators of GBV are not always strangers, but that women are often at greater risk of violence from their partners than from anyone else. Globally, on average, a girl is killed by someone in her own family every 11 minutes … 130 girls every day.

Thirty-one years since the first 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence”—the annual international campaign by the United Nations to raise GBV awareness and encourage action to end it—we are still a long way from its eradication.

This year’s theme for 16 days of action is “UNiTE! Activism To End Violence Against Women and Girls!” The theme emphasises the significance of collective action and solidarity to address GBV, with a nod to the Secretary General’s UNiTE campaign, which calls on governments, civil society, women’s organisations, young people, the private sector, the media, and the UN system to join forces to address violence against women and girls.

Indeed, as we call on all key stakeholders to work together to combat this global emergency, we must also be strategic in our approach, focusing intensely and urgently on regions that are not only the most affected by GBV but are also seeing a sharp increase in its incidence, i.e., regions with ongoing humanitarian crises.

The breakdown of social norms and support systems, the weakened capacity of law enforcement and other institutions, as well as increased poverty and insecurity during a humanitarian crisis, make women and girls more vulnerable to violence.

Risk of violence

A climate crisis such as a drought exacerbates the risk of violence against women and girls as it leads to displacement, food insecurity, and other forms of stress that can increase the likelihood of violence. Especially in situations of displacement, women and girls become more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse and are at a much greater risk of violence, as they may be isolated and lack access to protection and support services.

The drought in the Horn of Africa, particularly in Somalia, continues to ravage communities and has had devastating consequences, including a sharp increase in GBV. Over 82 percent of the 7.8 million Somali people in need of humanitarian assistance are women and girls, who are disproportionately affected by not just hunger, malnutrition, and specific health and hygiene challenges but also a constant threat to their security.

Rape, IPV, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation and abuse, forced or child marriages, female genital mutilation, family abandonment, and forced abortion are all forms of GBV that are on the rise in the drought affected populations in Somalia.

The UNFPA’s GBV Information Management System (GBVIMS) data for 2022 indicate a 21 percent increase in reported rape cases in the drought-impacted communities in 2021, a 60 percent increase in reported cases of intimate partner violence, and a 20 per cent increase in the number of women and girls who accessed lifesaving GBV response services due to sexual and intimate partner violence.

UNFPA, as the lead agency of the United Nation working to respond to and reduce GBV, is prioritising the protection of women and girls affected by the drought and providing them with access to services such as safe spaces, legal and medical assistance, psychosocial support, and referrals.

In addition, we are also working to train required human resources, including humanitarian workers, on how to identify and respond to incidents of GBV, support the survivors, and engage with local communities and work with them to prevent GBV and promote gender equality.

Addressing GBV is not just a moral imperative; it is also essential for the effectiveness of humanitarian efforts. No humanitarian response can be successful without addressing the needs of women and girls, including the need to protect them from GBV.

Access to critical services

Providing support and protection for women and girls in crisis situations not only reduces their immediate vulnerability but also creates a more robust, inclusive, and effective humanitarian response with long-term social and economic advantages.

When women and girls are protected from violence, they are better able to access essential services such as healthcare, education, and food, and they are more likely to be able to participate in the recovery and rebuilding process.

Yet despite the widespread nature of GBV and its devastating impact on individuals and communities, in the face of more obvious challenges, it continues to be under-addressed and under-prioritized at many levels of humanitarian response.
The critical and life-saving need to reduce vulnerability and increase support and protection for women and girls in crisis situations is the first step toward developing a more inclusive and effective humanitarian response.

There is a need for systemic evaluation of how we collectively plan and implement humanitarian responses with a view to women and girls as a marginalised group of right-holders, with a focus on their needs and protection.

It is a no-brainer that the voices of women and girls must be heard and their rights protected. Activism beyond these 16 days means continuing to take action for gender equality and addressing violence against women throughout the year. Let us work every day towards a future where everyone is treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their gender.

The author is Country Representative, UNFPA, Somalia

Nigeria’s Niyi Ojuolape resumes as UNFPA envoy in Somalia

Nigeria’s Niyi Ojuolape resumes as UNFPA envoy in Somalia

Following an almost five-year stint as Country Representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Ghana, Mr Niyi Ojuolape has resumed in a similar capacity with the organisation in Somalia.

Representing UNFPA in Ghana between July 2017 – May 2022, Mr. Ojuolape piloted several ground-breaking initiatives for the Country Office, such as the Youth Leaders (YoLe) Fellowship Program, a graduate internship programme that introduced young people to the professional UN work environment, along with skills in innovation and training for them to be actively involved in development work across the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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Prioritising Reproductive Health as an Answer to Rights and Choices

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The pandemic has caused lots of disruptions in all spheres, especially the health system. This has exposed serious gaps and challenges in the provision of sexual and reproductive health services for women and girls. The situation has worsened gender inequality, gender-based violence, and harmful practices including child marriage, which calls for urgent attention.

In commemoration of World Population Day 2021 in Ghana, I joined the National Population Council in a celebration under the theme, “Prioritising Reproductive Health as an Answer to Rights and Choices”.

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Working to eliminate Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) and other harmful practices has gained more prominence lately, given the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated incidents of SGBV, coupled with the difficulties associated with reporting cases.

Children often fall victims of such acts perpetrated mostly by men, leaving devastating effects on their physical and emotional wellbeing, usually for the rest of their lives, particularly when no quality care is provided.

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