Baahi-Koob Centre helping Women Rape Victims in Hargeisa
Since 2010 UN Somalia Joint Rule of Law project has been supporting Baahi-Koob, a free comprehensive one stop care center, located in Hargeisa city. Baahi-Koob, a Somali phrase which translates to ‘covering all needs’ has become well recognized for providing essential, services to victims of Sexual and gender based violence in and around Hargeisa city. Specifically, the Centre has been providing post rape care services such as psychosocial counselling for survivors and their families, forensic examination, evidence collection and specimen analysis, pregnancy prevention (emergency contraception), STI prevention and HIV prevention (using post exposure prophylaxis within 72 hours after incident) as well preparing victim to take case through the the criminal justice system .
In 2016, the centre supported and provided essential services to 505 rape victims. UNDP spoke with Asha Roble, Baahi-Koob centre Coordinator and psychosocial expert, who has been working at the centre since 2012. Asha, possess 15 years’ experience in counselling as well as a Masters in Social Work from Carleton University in Ottawa where she began her career.
Baahi-Koob operates from within Hargeisa General Hospital and is better yet, located strategically within the gynecology and maternity ward. Asha explains the reasons for this “There is a stigma attached to being raped and with Baahi-Koob located here, the victim is protected in attaining confidentiality and privacy, no one knows if they are visiting the maternity ward or us”.
There are three main services the Baahi-koob centre provides to rape victims, namely; medical, legal and psychosocial. The centre has 8 ( F:4 M:4 ) CID investigation officers seconded from the Somaliland Police. Asha, expresses the importance of this “When a girl victim is met with women at every entrance i.e. when she is reporting the crime to a woman officer, and is being provided counselling by a woman, she feels a level of comfort, confidence and is more responsive to us which means we can better help her recover”.
Asha explained how there is a deep-rooted stigma attached to the woman rape victim within Somali society and efforts in eradicating it is a long and arduous journey. Asha explains “sometimes a young woman will come to receive services but she won’t report the crime for fear of going to court and making her case public. The Bahi-Koob centre has also been working on raising awareness through pamphlets and awareness raising sessions. Although a stigma is still attached within the community, Asha believes that issues around sexual and gender based violence are slowly but surely changing, “there is improvement because more people are coming to us than ever, there is much more reporting. Communities are starting to accept the reality that this happens and victims accept their situation, yes there is that shift”.
“At the center, the client confidentiality that is ensured. We only tell family and friends if there is case or not, nothing beyond this”.
Asha Roble, listed as one of their challenges, the lack of knowledge and understanding restricting the level of help they can provide “often victims come to us after the the material evidence is removed such as the victim’s clothes are washed thereby compromising the collection of forensic evidence in the case. This is because people simply do not know that they should come to us without interfering with the evidence. In this regard, continuous awareness raising is required”.
Despite the social censure on issues around rape and the challenges which Asha and her staff members encounter daily, the essential services, which are free of charge provided to rape victims is quite like no other in Somaliland. Baahi-Koob is, like by its very definition fills the psycho social-legal void in the community and therefore improves the victims ability to receive support and justice in Somaliland.