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Somali men urged to fight for women rights as world marks 16 days of activism

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Sixteen-year-old Somali refugee Abibo Abdow Iman with her baby Sundus Yakub during the interview at the IFO2 Refugee Camp in Dadaab in November 24, 2016. /JACK OWUOR

As the world marks the first day of 16 days of activism on Friday, non-governmental organisations fighting for the rights of both women and children at the Dadaab refugee camp want men to be in the forefront in the fight.

This year’s theme, dubbed “Healthy relationships at home, in school and in communities", seeks to enhance protection of persons of concern of all ages and gender.

The international campaign originated from the Women's Global Leadership Institute in 1991.

“Girls and women are vulnerable to domestic violence including sexual violence, particularly owing to the power imbalance between a girl and an older man,” UNCHR deputy head of operations Aicha Limam said.

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“Girls who are married off early are frequently denied the opportunity to go to school because their families see little or no value in their education once they are married.”

Fourteen organisations fighting for the rights of children and women marked the day outside the UNHCR offices in Dadaab on Thursday.

Joseph Kotola from the Refugee Affairs Secretariat called on all the organisations to involve men in such discussions because they are the main perpetrators.

“We need to sensitise the community on the dangers of FGM and early marriage with the help of the camp leaders. If we do not, we are failing our children because all those vices have been outlawed,” Kotola said.

Save The Children area manager Caleb Odhiambo said those who practice FGM usually cross over with the girls to Somalia where the outdated practice is usually done.

The girls would later come back to the camps once their wounds have healed.

“They only take the girls there because of the hostile situation in the camp and the laws in our land. What we try to do is to engage the community and ask them to report any strange movement involving children in the camps to any child protection officer.” Caleb said.

“Sometimes when you hear the men talking about FGM you would think that they are the victims, sadly they are not. The camp leaders should also help us in reporting these cases because solving such cases within the Kadhis and sometimes camp leaders is not the solution,” Kotola added.

Female Genital Mutilation is a deeply rooted practice which has adverse health risks to the girl child.

Both Caleb and Kotola stressed on the need to create awareness about its risks in the camps as well as sensitizing the parents on the benefits of keeping children in school.


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