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Somalia, October 2015: Survivors of rape given support by Japan-funded Centre

By Athanas Makundi

© UNICEF Somalia/2015/Makundi
Sixteen year old Fatuma who was raped returning from a friend’s wedding is receiving support from the Baahi-Koob training Centre in Hargeisa.

October 2015, HARGEISA, Somaliland – Sixteen year old Fatuma stands staring through a window at the office of an NGO deep in thought. She is possibly thinking again about the night she was raped two months ago returning from a friend’s wedding.

When we enter the room, Fatuma doesn’t notice our presence immediately. After a while she turns around quietly and sits down and narrates her story.

“We had all been looking forward this big wedding day for my friend,” says Fatuma looking down and trying fight back tears. “But this day turned to be the saddest day of my life.“

Fatuma, was the last to be dropped by the hired car. When the driver reached a quiet, dark stretch of road, he stopped the car and attacked her.

“He grabbed me and I managed to run away,” explains Fatuma. “He ran after me, took a stick and hit me so hard, I fell flat on the ground. That’s when he overpowered me and raped me.”

“I kept screaming,” she continues, her eyes gleaming with tears. “People came to my rescue but I could barely walk, I was rushed to a hospital and later taken to the Baahi-Koob Centre, where I was looked after.”

The Baahi-Koob Centre provides a range of services for survivors of Gender Based Violence (GBV) such as rape. The Centre is always busy seeing some 25 cases a month.

“Those who come to the Centre receive immediate medical care,” says Issa Ahmed Nur, a UNICEF Child Protection officer based in Somaliland. “UNICEF is supporting Centres like Baahi-Koob with treatment kits, psychosocial support and legal help for the GBV survivors.”

Asha Rooble, the Program Coordinator at the Baahi-Koob Centre which is supported by UNICEF with generous funding from the Government of Japan, says Gender Based Violence is a big problem in Somaliland and needs to be addressed.

“Medical care is the first step when a rape survivors arrives here,” says Asha Rooble. “For victims of rape or sexual assault especially women, we give them medicine to prevent pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDs.

“The next step is counseling and psychosocial support,” she continues. “Then we push for justice for the victims, because I strongly believe there must be consequences for rapists. We work with the police and provide free legal services.”

As many survivors are unwilling to talk about their experiences because of the stigma involved, most perpetrators walk free. However the driver who attacked Fatuma was caught and sentenced to five years imprisonment.

UNICEF is working with other partners to create awareness in the community and encourage people to report these cases of rape and other forms of gender based violence.

© UNICEF Somalia/2015/Makundi
Survivors of gender-based violence in Somaliland attend a tailoring class in practice at Baahi-Koob training Centre.

“We go to the communities and talk to people about rape,” says Shukri Osman, a caseworker with the NGO Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation in Somaliland (CCBRS). “The idea is to educate the community about rape and other forms of gender based violence because they should know it’s real and it can happen to anyone especially their women and children.”

Asha says there is now an increasing awareness about the importance of reporting such abuses.

“People are now disclosing these things, they are reporting rape,” says Asha. ” When you see cases of young girls and boys being abused, it is really disturbing and it is a problem that that cannot be ignored.”

UNICEF is also supporting skills training for the survivors of GBV.

“This training is part of the psychosocial support,” says Nimo Ahmed – Life Skills Co-ordinator at the Baahi-Koob training centre. “We encourage GBV survivors to learn some skills to help improve their lives. We train them in cookery and tailoring.”

Hawa, who is 21, is attending the cookery classes.

“I have learned to cook a variety of tasty foods,” says Hawa who was lured by the man who claimed he wanted to marry her but instead brought his friends who gang raped her. “I think I want to start a restaurant when I finish my training.”

Increased insecurity, displacement and the break-down of community protection mechanisms have led to increases in violence against women. UNICEF works with partners to create awareness of the scale of the problem in the communities and to encourage survivors to report cases of rape and other cases of gender based violence and seek support.



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