UN’s Special Representative On Sexual Violence In Conflict Visits IOM Project In Somalia

Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration

Baidoa – In Somalia, armed groups have often subjected people living under its control to harsh treatment including forced recruitment. Women and girls are often forcefully recruited and forced into marriages and sexual violence.

As part of efforts to provide support to such women and girls, IOM runs a project to provide community-based rehabilitation and reintegration support to such women. It is the first project to engage with highly vulnerable and at-risk female population in Somalia.

On 14 July, Pramila Patten, the UN’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict (SVC) visited Baidoa in South West State of Somalia where she met with the local women organization implementing this project. IOM’s project supporting women formerly associated with armed groups.

During her visits, Patten listened first hand to stories of women who had been conscripted into armed groups. Many of them had experienced sexual violence.

“The women we supported through this project went through the worst. Some of the beneficiaries were abducted and forced into marriages with the armed men, living with all kinds of abuses,” one social worker who works closely with the women said.

She added: “In some cases, the parents were threatened to turn their daughter back to the armed men when she escaped or had to pay thousands of dollars for ransom. Those who were never released risked their lives escaping and had to beg for divorce from their husbands while raising tens of children on her own.”

IOM is partnering with the Somali Government, UNSOM, and local women organizations.  The project is funded by the United Nations Peace-Building Fund (UNPBF).

The project supports 150 women formerly associated with armed groups through psychosocial and religious counselling, access to medical treatment, protective services, vocational and skills trainings, business and livelihoods support, as well as outreach activities promoting their social and economic reintegration.

Even so, the needs remain immense. It is estimated that there are over 2,600 women who have escaped, were rescued, or defected from armed groups in Somalia and need critical social and economic supports to safely reintegrate in their communities.

Nimco Ahmed, a gender advisor with IOM said, “As many beneficiaries were not aware of their rights as women, providing support to survivors of sexual violence is a priority for us all. In addition to helping them feel safe in their communities, we are aiming to support beneficiaries in accessing sustainable livelihood opportunities so that they can generate food and income to survive and feed their families”

The Special Representative applauded local partners’ hard work and expressed interests in receiving regular updates on the project.

Patten said: “The DDR pilot project is innovative and seems promising. It’s important that we continuously strengthen the gender responsive element of the project to effectively address the dynamic needs of women associated with armed groups.”

For more information reach out to the IOM Somalia Programme Support Unit through iomsomaliapsu@iom.int or +254 705 832 020 or contact the DDR Programme Coordinator Matthew Decristofano – mdecristofan@iom.int

  • UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflicts meeting women groups in Baidoa © IOM Somalia