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Community trainers to boost FGM/C fight

© UNICEF Somalia
Sacdiyo (centre) and other participants in the Senegal course.

“I am not tired because I love learning about human rights and democracy.  We have wonderful discussions, small group work, songs, role plays and field visits.  It is hard to be bored or tired,” says Sacdiyo Sheikh Hamud, a young Somali woman from Garowe, in the north east region of Somalia.

November 2006 - Sacdiyo was one of 12 Somali Coordinators and Supervisors who traveled far across Africa to Senegal from three zones of Somalia: Northeast (Puntland), Northwest (Somaliland) and South Central, to take part in a one month seminar to be trained as trainers by Tostan in partnership with UNICEF Somalia and with support from the Swiss Committee.  The seminar in October 2006 occurred during the Muslim month of fasting, Ramadhan.

Read more below on the seminar...

Despite the hot rainy-season temperatures, the participants are enthusiastic about the programme. They are interacting with numerous representatives of the Tostan programme in Senegal and have witnessed important events such as an inter-village meeting of 27 communities in the Region of Kaolack: communities which are planning a Public Declaration to abandon Female Genital Cutting in December 2006. 

The class starts with a lively warm-up activity in which participants sing songs in Somali that they have created about democracy, peace or human rights. The songs are accompanied by clapping and dancing.  Many of the sessions focus on preparing the Somali team to conduct a training seminar for 42 community facilitators when they return home.  In an attempt to create the feel of a “real classroom”, trainers are asked to prepare sessions from their Facilitator’s Guide for their fellow trainees in Somali.  They are then given feedback on their presentations.  “Everyone needs to know about human rights to ensure human dignity for all and this seminar is giving us the tools to teach these important subjects in Somali communities,” explains Suleiman Mahdi Sh Hassan, a Tostan supervisor from Somaliland (North West Somalia). 

The many facilitation techniques used in the Tostan programme will encourage the community members to become confident, engaged, pro-active and highly motivated trainers. It is these skills that will enable them to bring about deep social transformation.  Small group work also allows the participants to develop critical thinking skills and creativity.  For example, during the session on ‘the Human Right to be Free from All Forms of Violence’, one working group identified Female Genital Cutting and Child Marriage as forms of violence perpetuated against girls in their communities.  The group chose to use drama to illustrate realistic ways to bring an end to Child Marriage. 

In their play, the group depict an older man returning from overseas looking for a young girl to become an obedient wife.  He meets an old friend who agrees to let him marry his 12 year old daughter currently attending the Tostan basic education program in the community.  Despite the protests of the girl and her mother, the father is determined to take her out of school and marry her off. 

However, her sister goes to the community facilitator who, upset by the news, immediately visits the Coordinator of the Community Management Committee (a woman) and they contact the Village Chief and Religious leader.  Together, they form a delegation to calmly talk to the father. After much negotiation, they convince him to give up the idea of marrying his daughter by presenting the health dangers and human rights violations involved in such an act.  Finally, the father agrees to stop the marriage and everyone is happy.  A song on human rights summarizes the importance of protecting girls and women and ensuring that human dignity is respected for all people: men, women, girls and boys. 

In another session, participants exchanged ideas on the Human Right to Peace and Security.  The discussion is powerful as young people relate their own traumatic experiences during years of violence and conflict in Somalia. Mahmud, explains that he had to flee from his home and live in Sudan for many months because of the fighting.  Ibrahim speaks of the psychological impact war had on him and the nightmares that still occur.  Ahmed sadly relates that many people in his community are still in shock from the events of war.  Iman shared her experience of being wounded in the streets of Mogadishu in cross fire during a fight between warlords. 

All agree that it is impossible to maintain human dignity during war and fighting.  They reinforced the need for all people to take responsibility and do all in their power to prevent war and conflict.  A discussion ensued on concrete ways to promote peace, conflict resolution and security in the country and communities.

According to Marwo Ahmed Saed, the Somali people will like the methods used in this programme because they love discussion and exchange, “I believe the Tostan programme will allow the women to express their ideas, give them confidence and encourage them to reach consensus in identifying and solving their problems collectively,” She adds, “The Somali people like unity and the Tostan programme will help to achieve unity – everything in the programme encourages teamwork, respecting common interests and community spirit.”

The Somali team says they have also enjoyed learning about project management skills which will allow them to effectively implement the community empowerment programme in their zones.  Ibrahim Suldan from Somaliland recognizes that he was not a good manager in the past.  “In this seminar, I have learned about staff empowerment and how to delegate tasks.  Before, I was trying to be a boss.  Now I think I know how to be a leader.”
The participants will return to Somalia with theory, experience, practical skills and memories of warm welcomes in a land that, though far away, is yet similar in many ways to their own.  Many have never been away from their towns or country and this trip represents a significant event in their lives, one that has changed them forever. 

In a recent evaluation session, all felt optimistic about implementing this programme and they are excited about the next steps: the baseline study in 42 communities and the training of facilitators.

Says Sacdiyo, “I feel this programme will lead to personal fulfillment but most importantly to collective responsibility and action.  We now feel that we can make a big difference in the future of our country.”




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