Civil society groups hold landmark series of events to call for protection of human rights in Somalia

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Disability rights groups attend event to mark 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Mogadishu, 10 December 2018. Photo: UNDP Somalia/Ahmed Fais
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Muna Hassan, Chairperson of a Youth Rights civil society organisation cluster, speaks during a youth focused event held to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 10 December 2018, Mogadishu. Photo: UNDP Somalia/Ahmed Fais
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Young men hold up signs calling for protection of human rights, at event focusing on the rights of marginalised and minority communities in Somalia, held to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Right, Mogadishu, 10 December 2018. Photo: UNDP Somalia/Ahmed Fais

13 December 2018, Mogadishu.  Civil society groups marked the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights this month with seven parallel individual events in the Somali capital, highlighting the need to protect the rights of minority groups, young people, people with disabilities, women and children, journalists, and humanitarian workers and civilians in conflict situations.

Each event was hosted by a ‘cluster’ of civil society organizations advocating for particular rights, with over 260 people attending seven events in two different locations in the city.

Fadwo Hassan, a Child Protection Coordinator with Somali NGO Hinna, and chairperson of the women and children’s cluster, said legal frameworks and law enforcement were needed to stop violence against women and children, while Ifrah Ahmed, founder of the Ifrah Foundation, which campaigns against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), called for more action to protect Somali girls from FGM. 

“FGM can have severely adverse effects on the physical, mental and psychosocial well-being of those who undergo the practice. The health consequences of FGM are both immediate and life-long.” Ms. Ahmed said.

Warsan Hassan from the Somali National Women’s Organisation, highlighted the rights women have across a wide range of societal roles in Somalia. “Women have the right to own property and businesses, engage in financial dealings, vote, receive inheritance, obtain an education and participate in legal and political affairs.  Both men and women have rights in societies that must be respected,” she said.

The Government of Somalia has made progress in protecting the human rights of Somali citizens this year. It ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in October, and the Federal Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development has also taken tabled a Bill in Parliament to establish a disability rights agency. The country was also elected to the UN Human Rights Council in 2018, giving it an opportunity to engage with human rights issues on the global stage.

Muna Hassan, Chairperson of the Somali Youth cluster, speaking during a youth focused event, called for youth to stand up for their social, political and economic rights to ensure greater economic opportunities and political participation.  “There are still challenges are ahead. Somali youth need to work together, advocate and fight for their rights,” she said.

Ibrahim Mohamed, of the Marginalized Communities Advocacy (MCA) network, said the network was advocating for social and political inclusion for marginalized and minorities including IDPs, not only in Mogadishu but across Somalia. “Being an IDP does not mean that you are a second class of Somali people.  Know that you are equal to others. Believe that you are a Somali citizen, you can participate in elections, you can elect members of parliament,” he said.

In a disability rights event, Ahmed Warsame from the Al Nur School of Blind, said the government should ensure rights of people with disabilities were enshrined in the constitution, and asked for a change of viewpoint in Somalia towards people living with disabilities. “I ask every Somali person to change their mindset and attitude toward persons with disabilities, to have awareness that persons with disabilities are capable and strong.  And I request people with disabilities to never give up and keep working hard for your rights, there is hope.”

The civil society led events were held with the support of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), under a UN joint human rights programme, with funding from Sweden, Norway and Denmark.  The joint programme works in partnership with Somali civil society organizations for greater protection and recognition of the human rights of all Somalis.

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