Not feeling alone is crucial for survivors of gender-based violence

Not feeling alone is crucial for survivors of gender-based violence

Finn Church Aid (FCA) works against gender-based violence in the Central African Republic by connecting survivors to healthcare services and psychosocial counselling.

WHEN ZITA KOUALET started her work as FCA’s psychosocial counsellor in Baboua, the hardest part was getting survivors of gender-based violence to consider sharing what they had gone through.

Koualet and her colleagues provide the first response in cases of rape, sexual harassment, or domestic violence in Baboua, Central African Republic. The project has been running for three years with UN Refugee Agency UNHCR funding. After careful awareness-raising in the community, people know how to approach Koualet in cases of violence or abuse.

“We pay for any transport or medical needs and provide counselling that focuses on the mental well-being. We can also help people file cases when they have been wronged”, she says.

“After that, the survivors are offered counselling. The more they feel they are supported, the more comfortable they are opening up about their experience and feel how it helps them move forward.”

Koulaet and her team also record the cases from their area in UNHCR’s database. Based on the countrywide data, NGOs know the needs and can tailor their responses nationwide.

Early marriage a key issue that leads to violence

Koualet mentions that early marriage is one of the core issues that leads to violence against women. When women are married off young, they are forced to interrupt their education – if they were in school in the first place. If women do not receive an education, they often end up staying at home doing housework and taking care of children, making them dependent on their husbands.

If a girl and her family refuse a marriage proposal, they might face consequences. In many cases of sexual violence, the perpetrator is someone they know from before, Koualet explains.

Usually, women with their own income suffer less from gender-based violence, which is why education is critical to preventing cases.

“Early marriage greatly slows down the development of young girls here. We work hard to discourage this custom and promote the benefits of education instead”, Koualet says.

After careful awareness-raising in the community in Baboua in Central African Republic, people know how to approach Zita Koualet in cases of violence or abuse.

Several of Koualet’s clients in Baboua, near the border to Cameroon, are only teenagers. One of them is 14-year-old Sylvaine. She was raped on her way home from an early evening event in her village. The assailant was a man who had earlier proposed to marry her, but Sylvaine and her family had declined.

“I had refused to marry because I wanted to continue my studies. Not too much later, I met the man when I was on my way home in the dark, and he assaulted me”, she says.

Sylvaine was first afraid to speak about the rape with anyone, but when she started feeling sick, she decided to confide in her sister. Her sister persuaded Sylvaine to talk to her mother, who had heard about FCA through an awareness campaign. FCA’s staff immediately took her to the hospital.

The doctor who treated her injuries quickly told Sylvaine she was pregnant.

“Our first thought was that we wanted to press charges against the perpetrator, but we decided that it would be disadvantageous for my future, my studies and marriage potential”, Syvlaine says.

Counselling comforts and helps building a way forward 

The mental health consequences of gender-based violence are often paralysing. Ana is a 30-year-old single mother who takes care of her five children alone after divorcing her husband a few years earlier. Ana used to run a successful business as a vendor at the weekly market near the town of Bouar.

One day, she was assaulted and robbed by members of an armed group. They beat Ana and took all her possessions. Forced down on the ground, the men accused her of collaborating with another armed group. After driving over her with their motorcycles, they left her lying on the road.

“I lost all the money I had for supporting my children. They are now out of school, and during the month after the assault, I have not been able to work”, she says.

Some materials from FCA's and UNHCR's dignity kit in are spread on the table. There is a bucket, a box with a picture of a torch, a whistle, a paper bag, two pairs of women's underwear and a white mosquito net on the table.
A dignity kit distributed to women in Baboua, Central African Republic contains a mosquito net, torch, underwear and other necessities, including a whistle to raise alarm in case of an attack.

The people who found Ana referred her to FCA, who took her to treatment for her injuries and covered her hospital costs. Ana still feels pain in her ribs and back but is able to walk. While still fearing to visit the local market, Ana feels grateful for the psychosocial support she receives weekly.

“Thanks to that, I have been able to live, and the hospital helped me back on my feet”, she says.

Ana and Sylvaine say that the most important reason for their recovery is understanding that they are not alone. Sylvaine also says that the counselling has been comforting and helped her realise that what happened to her was not her fault. Her goal is now to go back to school and continue her education.

“Speaking with the counsellors has made me realise I also want to work with something that makes a difference. Caring for my child does not stop me. My siblings and mother will support me”, Sylvaine says.

The names of the survivors of gender-based violence have been changed due to the sensitive nature of their stories.

Text: Erik Nyström
Photos: Björn Udd

The Women of Raqqa – Fighting for Their Right to Study

The Women of Raqqa – Fighting for Their Right to Study

Aisha held secret classes. Amina studied in them. Nour is prepared to wait for hours at checkup points to finish tests. The women of Raqqa are doing whatever they can to fight for a better future.

THE CITY OF RAQQA in Northern Syria, along with its surrounding regions, were once known as a modernized region, receiving a flood of industrial investments, with an orientation towards the future. The adults had a good education; the children studied in schools to obtain one.

In 2013, the terrorist organization ISIS took over and placed heavy limits the way the people of Raqqa, particularly the women and girls, moved and dressed. The terrorists seized farmers’ crops and merchants’ goods, thus also seizing locals’ way of life.

However, the greatest enemy the terrorists faced was education. From the get-go the terrorist organization closed the schools of the areas, turning them into bases, prisons, and torture centers. Boys were recruited to fight, teachers were made to apologize for teaching ; but the girls had the worst fate, as ISIS organized training sessions on how to offer their bodies to terrorists.

Currently, Finn Church Aid is operating in the countryside of Raqqa, which the terrorists left in 2017. The region has over a hundred schools damaged in battle with tens of thousands of students. Many have had their school life interrupted for as long as ten years. The various parties to the conflict still patrol the area, and going through checkpoints makes life hard for schoolchildren.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, however. Locals, including girls and women, have been able to return to school. This story features a trio of survivors from Raqqa.

Aisha held secret school classes as a teacher during ISIS, participated in FCA training during her escape, and returned to her home region to become a principal. 

“Previously, the women of Raqqa were active members of society, involved in politics. We lived our own lives and, like me, could move alone to a university town for studies. 

The terrorists know about the power of teachers, and they certainly tried to win the teachers over to help them get young girls to molest. Thinking about what they did to us still gets me raving mad.  

A laughing Syrian woman sits in a chair. She has a smartphone in her hands.

There are more than one hundred schools in the rural area in which FCA operates. Aisha is one of the female head teachers. About 75 per cent of the teachers are women.

At the start of ISIS’s reign of terror, we tried to continue our work, until we understood that they were sending their members to our classes to report to their leaders what we were teaching. As a countermeasure we locked the school doors, but they broke the locks and interrupted our studies. Next, they took the study materials.  

Halfway through 2014, the only thing I could do was continue instructing my students at my home. We had several female teachers, and we organized a school secretly at my house for four months. We organized teaching in shifts, with approximately a hundred children participating. When our work was revealed, the terrorists arrested me and interrogated me.  

I fooled them and said that I only instructed the children Arabic and the Quran instead of English, French and natural sciences. They were enthusiastic about this, asked me to continue and promised they would deliver suitable study materials. After interrogation I packed my bags and escaped from the city to the countryside – they never caught me. I left

the Raqqa area in 2015, escaping at the last moment. After the night I left, ISIS announced that women under 50 were under curfew and locked up in their houses.  

I spent the next years in the Hama countryside, a scene of many battles. During the worst ones I could not teach at all. Then, I found out FCA had started operating in my area, organizing school repairs and activities for the students. I participated in teacher training, a particularly important experience for me, learning about offering psychosocial support and new study methods, like giving the students group work. My students’ critical thinking skills improved, allowing them to focus on their studies better. 

Before the war, my students made plans for their future, but during the reign of ISIS, the only thing the kids worried about was their own safety. Girls married young and had children, leaving us a huge burden as education experts. We are still trying to change the thought patterns of the girls who lived during the ISIS era to understand that getting an education is worth it. ISIS taught these girls to get married and start a family – we are teaching them to go to university and build a new future.  

After three years, I returned to the Raqqa countryside to become the principal of this school. It is a personal decision not dwell too much on the war years. Regarding the past, I only wish to remember the times before 2010 and after 2023. The rest of it is not worthy of my attention.” 

Nour, 18, travels from the Kurdish zone through 20 checkpoints to a school supported by Finn Church Aid to participate in her final exams.

“My first memory of ISIS? When they prevented us girls from going to school and forced us to cover our faces. I was in the second grade. We lived here, under the rule of ISIS, for two years, until my dad found a smuggler who took us to Hama. In there I continued my schooling in the second grade. It was weird, as I was older than other students, and taller by a head’s length. 

Two female students listen to their teacher in a class room in Syria. The teacher is standing her back facing the camera.

18-year-old Nour (in the middle) had to pass through 20 checkpoints to make it to final examinations. She and her sister take turns to go to school every other year. 

We returned to the Raqqa area in 2021. Me and my sister are of different ages, but due to breaks in my education we are both going to the ninth grade. I should really be three years further in my studies. My father does not have enough money to send us both to school, meaning we have taken turns to go through the school. First, my sister continued her education, now it is my time, and my sister has prepared me for the national exams.

I live in the Kurdish zone without a public school. I woke up early in the morning and travelled here to participate in my finals. Normally this trip takes me half an hour, but it can also take as many as six hours now. There are 20 checkpoints along the way, asking a lot of questions and inspecting personal IDs.

I spent this morning afraid I could not make it through the checkpoints in time. In that case, I could not have made it to the final exams and would have had to remain out of school for a year. All this trouble – I go through it just to get a Syrian final certificate from school.

I want to finish my education but also fear that my family’s financial situation will prevent it. I find the higher-grade tests challenging. I need a real teacher – just studying with my sister is not sufficient. Travelling between different regions is also expensive and takes its toll.

During the rule of ISIS, girls married at 13–15, and this became normalized. I am now 18 years old and already feel too old to be wanted. I want to continue my studies, and my father fully supports me. He does not want to marry too young.”

Amina, 14, went to a secret school held by her dad, but only learned to count and write years later. Now she is one of the best students at her school.

“I do not think I had a broken childhood. ISIS came when I was four. Those were bad, frightening times, times when we could not sleep at night or go out with my mom due to being female. When we needed something from the markets, my dad had to go out and get it.

When terrorists finally left the Raqqa area and I could start my schooling, I was 8. I could not write or count, but my father, who is a teacher, supported me. Even during the ISIS rule, my dad tried to teach me and my neighbors’ children in secret. ISIS found out and threatened my father over it. They also tried to force my dad to send them to one of their ”schools,” but my dad was very strictly against it.

I was eight years old when the terrorists left. I have worked hard to make up for the gaps in my education since then. Just this morning, I participated in the national test for the ninth graders despite being younger than the others. I am an excellent student – one who is always getting the best grades.

A Syrian teenage girl smiles at camera in a class room.

When terrorists finally left the Raqqa area and I could start my schooling, I was 8. I could not write or count, says 14-year-old Amina.

I will continue my studies, and I am ready to walk to the nearest girls’ high school even if it takes 45 minutes to get there. In the future, I want to train myself to be a pediatrician to help kids who have gone through war. And I want to remain in the vicinity of Raqqa – this is my home.”

Text: Ulriikka Myöhänen
Photos: Antti Yrjönen
Translation: Tatu Ahponen

Finn Church Aid is repairing damaged schools in Raqqa and supporting students and teachers with cash grants. Among those receiving grants are teachers and students travelling to school finishing exams from the Kurdish area. The work happens together with the Syria Humanitarian Fund, under the UN.

Never too late to LEARN – improving access to education in Uganda

Never too late to LEARN – improving access to education in Uganda

A girl in a wheelchair is sitting next to a classmate at a desk. They are looking at a textbook together
Monica a student from Rwamwanja Secondary School finds it easier to participate in class with her wheelchair and kneepads.

IN UGANDA, FCA supports children and adolescents access education in Uganda’s refugee settlements through the Lasting Education Achievements Responding to Needs (LEARN) project funded by the U.S department of State, Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration.

LYDIA BANGA, Rwarinda Racheal, and Komulembe Monica are three inspiring young individuals who, despite setbacks, are forging their education paths.

FCA helped them rejoin mainstream schooling after their education was interrupted. Here are their own stories.

Lydia’s journey to achieving top performance.

Lydia Banga’s journey from a refugee fleeing civil war in Congo to becoming one of the best-performing students at in Rwamwanja refugee settlement is a testament to her determination.

A girl in a green polo shirt sits at a desk and works on some schoolwork
Lydia Banga attends Ntenungi Senior Secondary School in Rwamwanja refugee settlement

“When I came to Uganda, I was demoted and placed in primary classes instead of joining secondary school. This was because of the language barrier; I did not know English. I felt demotivated so I contemplated dropping out of school. However, my mother’s convinced me to stay. In school. I worked hard became one of the best performing students during my Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE).”

“I was determined to work hard even when my mother fell ill, and I had to be the sole provider of our family. I am the oldest of five siblings, so I took on casual jobs to support us. Through it all, I remained committed to my education,” she adds.

Lydia later joined Ntenungi Secondary School with support of Finn Church Aid (FCA) through the LEARN project, which gave her extra support.

“I am extremely grateful to FCA for giving me a scholarship to study from Ntenungi Secondary School. They also give me scholastic materials, menstrual hygiene kits, and career counselling.” she says. 

Lydia’s dreams of pursuing medicine and specialise in midwifery are fueled by her desire to make a positive impact on her community.

Pregnancy didn’t put an end to her education

Rwarinda Racheal is a survivor, who rejoined school with the support of her parents.

“During the COVID-19 lockdown, I became pregnant because I was taken advantage of by one of our village’s pastors. For my parents and me, it was an extremely difficult time. When we took the issue to the police, it was discovered that he was abusing several girls in the same way. Sadly, he fled the settlement, and we haven’t heard from him since,” Racheal tells us.

A girl in a green polo shirt sits on a chair outside a classroom and looks towards the camera
Racheal goes to Ntenungi Secondary School.

With unwavering support from her parents, friends, and FCA, she returned to school after the lockdown.

“My mother received a visit from the deputy headteacher of Ntenungi Secondary School who informed her I may resume my studies after delivering.  Throughout the pregnancy, she checked in with me every day.”

“A part of my journey has also included FCA support,” she continues. “They drove me to the hospital, and their PSS (Psychosocial Support) & Child Protection officers helped me the entire way. They also give me scholastic materials and menstrual hygiene kits.”

Racheal aspires to become a doctor, to make a difference in people’s lives. “With FCA’s support, I am confident that I will fulfil my dream,” she smiles.

She encourages parents not to feel disappointed about teenagers who get pregnant, emphasising the potential for success with proper support and guidance.

Mobility devices improved Monica’s school experience.

A girl in a wheelchair is sitting outside a classroom. She has kneepads on.
Monica a student from Rwamwanja Secondary School finds it easier to participate in class with her wheelchair and kneepads.

To improve Komulembe Monica’s classroom experience, FCA provided the sixteen-year-old girl with a wheelchair and kneepads.

“The wheelchair and kneepads provided to me by the LEARN project have greatly eased my movement around the school. Now, I can access any part of the school easily. Before I received this support, it was very difficult for me to move and stay in school. It was even worse on rainy days when I would have to crawl in mud and over rocks, which hurt me.”

Monica dreams of becoming a doctor and encourages parents and learners with disabilities to maintain a positive attitude.

“Parents who have children with disabilities should not feel disappointed or ashamed. With proper support, these children can lead successful and meaningful lives,” Monica concludes.

We believe everyone has the right to quality education. Find out more about our LEARN project.

Breaking barriers: FCA Uganda ensures access to education for children with disabilities

Breaking barriers: FCA Uganda ensures access to education for children with disabilities

Leticia Kanyere is a 14-year-old deaf student. She came to Sweswe Special Needs Education (SNE) Unit after her family heard about their inclusivity scheme. She now stays at the boarding school facilities with her friends, and loves it.

Children with disabilities in refugee settlements are especially vulnerable to stigmatisation, exclusion, isolation, and violence. These barriers limit their abilities to access education, essential services, form relationships with their peers, and foster psychosocial well-being.

“I like the school because it’s easy to make friends. We easily understand each other because we use the same language. In my village, only a few people understand sign language so it’s hard to communicate,” says Leticia, who is doing well in class and wants to become a hairdresser in the future.

A Ugandan girl sitting at a desk in a classroom.
Leticia Kanyere is loving her time at Sweswe SNE. Here people know sign language, and communicating is easier. PHOTO: BJÖRN UDD / FCA

In order to provide inclusive education, Finn Church Aid (FCA) constructed a fully-fledged Special Needs Education Unit at Sweswe Primary School in Kyaka II refugee settlement. The unit was a big undertaking and came together thanks to funding from several donors. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland paid for the unit itself. Then, the U.S department of State, Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) supported the construction of a fence around the SNE unit to enhance the safety of the learners. Finally, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) supports operations in the school.

The support provided to the SNE unit enhances closer supervision, opportunities for safeguarding, and the ability to identify and address children’s psychological, social, and medical needs. This fosters an inclusive environment where learners can stay in school and feel supported.

The facility launched in 2022 and supports learners from both Kyaka II and the neighbouring Rwamwanja refugee settlement. It opened its doors to children and adolescents with disabilities from host and refugee communities, bringing enormous relief to both the children and their families.

Alex Dusabe, 16, also enjoys coming to school. “I used to have many challenges back home but when I came to Sweswe SNE, I made friends with the teachers, and they support me,” he says.

A Ugandan boy in sitting at a desk in a classroom, with classmates behind him.
Many of the students at Sweswe feel the school has helped them make friends. Alex Dusabe is no exception, and has several friends among his classmates. PHOTO: BJÖRN UDD / FCA

Finn Church Aid trains teachers at the facility in special needs education and management so they can both engage with and take care of the learners.

The inclusive environment at the school makes it possible for learners with special needs to stay in school. The blocks at the facility have been constructed with ramps and rails and are accessible by wheelchair. The classrooms are brightly lit to help the visually impaired. Further improvements are planned to make students’ lives easier.

“The toilet facilities are near the dormitories and far from the dining hall. I would be grateful if we could get a boys’ toilet facility closer to the dining,” says Alex, who has a physical disability.

A picture of a Ugandan youth with crutches on the school yard
Alex Dusabe is actively involved in suggesting improvements to his school. PHOTO: BJÖRN UDD / FCA

Living Businge, a sign language teacher at the SNE Unit with 12 years’ experience, encourages adolescents and children with disabilities to go to school and access their right to quality education.

He’s had a long interest in the deaf community and decided to learn sign language so he could better support them as a teacher.

“Inclusive education provides learning opportunities to all individuals and caters to the diversity among learners. Among people with physical, sensory, mental, and intellectual disabilities, exclusion from education is most pronounced. The SNE unit at Sweswe presents a chance to eliminate the obstacles to participation and learning for students with severe disabilities that mainstream education cannot accommodate,” says Filbert Idha, the Education Technical Lead at Finn Church Aid.

A picture of bunkbeds in the girls' dormitory.
The boarding school creates a safe environment for the learners, who do not have to travel long distances to school everyday. Here, learners with a physically disability sleep in the lower bunks. PHOTO: BJÖRN UDD / FCA

According to Uganda’s national Education Response Plan (ERP) for refugees and host communities, only 2% of learners with disabilities are enrolled in school (global average: 10%). Nationally, only 172,864 children with special needs (approximately 2% of total primary level enrollment) were enrolled in primary schools in 2022.

Disabilities among children who are refugees are reported to be mobility, cognition and vision, but most commonly anxiety and trauma related disorders.

Text: Linda Kabuzire

Contract farming project delivers life-changing benefits for women farmers in Uganda

Contract farming project delivers life-changing benefits for women farmers in Uganda

Traditionally, women have had a hard time making a living in Mityana, a rural town in central Uganda. Women are usually not allowed to own farming land, and the ones who have land at their disposal have had low and unpredictable crop yields. This is something the contract farming project, backed by Women’s Bank and Finn Church Aid, wanted to address.

CONTRACT FARMING is a system in which farmers enter into an agreement with a buyer under predetermined contractual obligations. The farmers produce for the market, as they are already assured that they will have a buyer, and what price they will get for their produce.

In some cases, the buyer might also support the farmers with agrotechnical knowledge, inputs and other production requirements to be assured of the best quality product.

“Before, I struggled to make ends meet. I would plant my crops and hope for the best. But now, I have a contract that guarantees to buy my maize at a fair price. I have also received training on how to improve my farming practices, and I have seen the results in my yields,” says one of the farmers, Celina Nelima, about her experience with contract farming.

A Ugandan woman standing in front of a brick house under construction, the walls are up, but the roof is missing.
With the money Celina Nelima has earned through contract farming and selling chips, she and her husband are building a new house. Picture: Björn Udd / FCA

“With the profits I make, I set up a fast foods business where I sell fried chips to the community in the evenings. I save enough money weekly, and now I am building my dream house. I am grateful to Finn Church Aid for their support,“ Nelima, 34, adds with a big smile.

Increased bargaining power

Finn Church Aid and Women’s Bank help build the linkages between the women farmers and buyers. One of those buyers is Egg Production Uganda Limited (EPL), which is set up by the Women’s Bank. Women are assisted in organising into groups, creating collective bargaining power, to negotiate fair trade deals with the buyers.

FCA and EPL provide women farmers with training and support in the community, such as business literacy, good agricultural practices, Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) methodology, gender awareness, leadership and short-term specialized livelihood trainings. Training has improved the lives of the women and helped them access seeds, fertilizers, and other things they need to start their businesses.

A woman standing and showing two school uniforms in different colours.
Bitamisi Nakibirango was able to start a tailoring shop. Now she makes school uniforms for the nearby schools to earn some extra income. PHOTO: Björn Udd / FCA

The results have been remarkable. The farmers have been able to increase their yields and household income significantly, take their children back to school with ease, access finances for investment through VSLAs, access medical services, gain respect in their communities, and be elected to leadership positions.

Women in control

Through this, the lives of the women farmers have transformed. They are no longer at the mercy of middlemen who would buy their crops at a low price or not at all. They now have a steady income and can plan for the future.

Bitamisi Nakibirango, 52 years says, “I used to walk 7 kilometers to go to the market to sell my produce, now EPL collects the produce from the bulking center which is not far from my home. This has allowed me to save time and money.”

The success of the contract farming system in Mityana has also had a ripple effect in the community. Other farmers have seen the benefits and are now interested in joining the program. Finn Church Aid Uganda continues to work with the farmers to expand the program and ensure its sustainability.

In Mityana, over 700 women, from as many households, with an average of 6 household members each, were introduced to contract farming by Finn Church Aid Uganda (FCA). FCA is a non-profit organization that works to promote sustainable livelihoods in rural communities in a program that was initiated on January 3rd 2021.

Text: Kadlah Nabakembo

In Nepal’s Far West, pig and vegetable farming is the main source of livelihood for former bonded labourers

In Nepal’s Far West, pig and vegetable farming is the main source of livelihood for former bonded labourers

Former bonded labourers in Nepal’s Far Western Region earn a modest living by raising pigs and growing vegetables. FCA offers support to local people to help them earn a living, but in the most impoverished villages severe drought and all-engulfing fires make life extremely challenging.

IN A NORMAL summer, the Mohana River floods across the flat terrain all the way to the village of Bipatpur. Taking vegetables across the river to India would require a boat and a skipper.

In Nepal’s Far West, the annual monsoon season usually starts in early June, but this year the rains were weeks late. For local women, crossing the border from Nepal to India seems fairly easy; all they have to do is lift up their saris, roll up their trouser legs and wade across the river. It has been scorching hot for nearly two weeks now, with temperature rising above 40 degrees.

The ground is parched, and plants and people are desperate for water. Some of the wells in the village have dried up and there is no point in looking for new ones because finding groundwater is too uncertain and the costs of digging too high.

This has been an exceptional year in more ways than one. This spring, following a disaster in April that destroyed the harvest and stores, the women of Bipatpur had nothing to sell to the Indian vegetable markets across the river.

Women walking in water in Nepal.

During a normal summer the water in the Mohana river is much higher by June. The women of Bipatpur village cross the river to sell their vegetables on the Indian side. Photo: Uma Bista

“Only people were saved”

Burning crop residue on the fields to release nutrients is an annual tradition in Bipatpur. This year, an unpredictable and exceptionally strong wind caused the fire to spread quickly and uncontrollably. Houses, food containers, and livestock shelters burned down one after another. The fire destroyed or damaged the homes of 71 families and killed domestic animals.

Villagers cleared away the charred tree trunks, but the sad and disheartened feelings remain.

“Only people were saved,” the women say.

The fire also engulfed a large chunk of the village cooperative’s savings, which were kept in a box. Belmati Devi Chaudhary, 42, looks at the charred remains of her house.

“Everything is gone. All we have is emergency aid.”

A man and an older woman walking in a village in Nepal.
Belmati Devi Chaudhary and her son Sanjay Chaudhary outside of their temporary house at Bipadpur in Kailari Rural Municipality-7, Kailali district. They lost all their pigs on fire in April. FCA Nepal provided support to the Chaudhary family to rebuild their house. Photo: Uma Bista

A sow the family had bought with financial support from Finn Church Aid died in the fire. Without a mother to care for them, five piglets died, too. This was a huge loss for the Chaudhary family.

The money Belmati Devi Chaudhary had earned from pig farming helped her to pay for her children’s schooling. Standing next to his mother, the family’s eldest son Sanjay Chaudhary, 23, looks helpless.

“I may have to go to Kathmandu to find work. It’s difficult to get a paid job here,” he says.

For many years, scores of young Nepalese men have left for the capital city or for India in search of odd jobs, but Belmati doesn’t want her son to follow in their footsteps.

Like many others in Bipatpur and in the surrounding Kailali District, the Chaudhary family are former bonded labourers. Although Nepal’s 200-year-old Haliya and Kamayia bonded labour systems were abolished in the early 2000s, many former bonded labourers and their descendants are still very vulnerable.

People are standing behind a collapsed house.

Houses, food containers, and livestock shelters burned down one after another in April in the village of Bipatpur, Far West region of Nepal. The fire destroyed or damaged the homes of 71 families and killed domestic animals. Photo: Uma Bista

Sustainable livelihood with pig farming

Jumani Chaudhary, 50, is one of 29 women in a group supported by FCA. These women run a pig farm in the municipality of Gauriganga. They have learned how to make porridge for pigs from corn and wheat milling byproducts.

“By feeding pigs porridge, we save on feeding costs, and the pigs are healthier and grow faster,” Jumani Chaudhary says.

The women plan to start selling their pig feed to other pig farmers. To safeguard feed production, they would like to set up their own mill.

An older woman is petting her two pigs in Nepal.

Gaumati Sunuwar, 56, has received support from FCA on pig farming in Amargadhi, Dadeldhura district. Photo: Uma Bista

In a pig pen, three different-coloured pigs oink and jostle for food. Sows are less than a year old when they produce their first litter. Typically they can produce two litters a year, around ten piglets each time. With the right care and nutrition, pigs grow quickly.

“A full-grown boar is worth up to 30,000 rupees,” says Bishni Chaudhary, 43.

A Nepalese woman is standing in a room holding her young child in her arms.
Sheela Chaudhary, 22, with her son Ronim Chaudhary at Gauriganga, Kailali district 2. FCA Nepal provides nutrition packages to Sheela’s son. Photo: Uma Bista

Sanu Chaudhary, 27, who lives next door and is also a member of the women’s group, says she recently sold seven pigs for 50,000 rupees. Converted to euros, the sums seem somewhat modest: a thousand rupees equals roughly seven euros. But in the Far Western Region of Nepal, this money goes a long way. You can buy a school uniform for your child, meals for the entire school year, a water bottle and school supplies.

“Pig farming is easier and requires less work than buffalo farming. Buffaloes only produce milk part of the year, when they nurse their calves,” Jumani Chaudhary explains.

When buffaloes don’t produce milk, they produce nothing, but cost ten times the price of a pig.

“Before, we had to beg for food”

The road further west to the Dadeldhura district twists and turns along the lush green hills. Compared to the flat terrains of Kailali, Dadeldhura is topographically much more uneven. The winding road barely fits our car, giving the scenic drive an extra twist. Finally, we arrive in the village of Ganyapdhura.

We can see hints of green on the terraced farms even though the rains are late. The Dalit community living here grows cauliflower, potatoes and zucchini. Growing vegetables is more than a livelihood; it has given the community a sense of value.

“Before, we had to beg for food, but now we grow vegetables for sale,” says Gita Devi Sarki, 38.

In 2019, Finn Church Aid helped the community further improve its farming efficiency by supporting the Sarki family and 24 other local farmers in the introduction of tunnel farming. The plastic cover of the tunnel protects the vegetables from the elements and retains moisture. The community also received a walk-behind tractor, which makes plowing much easier. Gita Devi Sarki is the only woman who knows how to operate the machine – and even she needs her husband’s help to start it.

A woman is holding a hand tracktor. A man is walking next to the woman.

Gita Devi Sarki plows a field using a hand tractor to plant vegetables at Kholibasti, Ganyapdhura Rural municipality in Dadeldhura. The couple is now working together and hoping to expand their vegetable farming with the support they receive from FCA. Photo: Uma Bista

“Before, our farm was just big enough to produce corn and wheat for our own family. Now we can save 410 rupees each month by selling some of the vegetables we grow,” she says.

Most importantly, having a more secure livelihood meant that Gita’s husband Padam Bahadur Sarki, 42, was able to return home from India, where he worked for twenty years. The couple have been together for 22 years and have four children. Almost all this time, Gita Devi Sarki was in charge of the family’s day-to-day life, alone.

“I returned to Nepal due to the COVID-19 lockdowns,” he says.

“It’s a good thing you came back,” Gita Devi Sarki says, with a grin.

“Yeah, it’s been OK,” her husband replies, causing the group of women sitting around him to burst into laughter.

Having her husband back has reduced Gita Devi Sarki’s workload in the farms. The family plans to expand their business to raising goats and small-scale fish farming in a small pond in the valley.

A family is sitting on the porch of their home. A cow is peeking from one of the doorways.

Bahadur Damai, 52, (centre) with his family at Ganyapdhura Rural Municipality in Dadeldhura district received support from FCA for chicken farming. In the spring of 2022, Bahadur Damai was elected as a ward member in the local government. Photo: Uma Bista

From bonded labourer to a member of a local government

A pretty little house has a downstairs door open, and a wide-eyed cow peeks through the door. Bahadur Damai, 52, beckons to visitors to join him in the shade under a canopy. Back in the early 2000s, before the abolition of the Haliya system, he was a bonded labourer, mending other people’s clothing. Today, he smiles happily as he talks to us about his chickens and a small tailor’s shop he has opened in a nearby village centre.

Money has given his family a more stable livelihood, allowing him to buy things like a television. He has also been able to pay for the weddings of his two adult daughters, something that clearly makes him very proud.

One of his greatest achievements, however, was being elected a member of the local government in May.

A man is kneeling down inside a chicken pen.
Bahadur Damai, 52, used to make an inadequate living by sewing people’s clothes. Now he has a steady income raising chickens on his own farm in Ganyapdhura in Dadeldhura district. Photo: Uma Bista

“It’s all thanks to FCA that I am where I am now. I received support for vegetable and chicken farming, and I’ve been able to build relationships that won me votes in the election.”
He pauses mid-sentence when a gust of wind tries to rip off the chicken coop’s corrugated iron roof. Bahadur Damai gestures at his son, telling him to put big stones on the roof to keep it in place.

“A new chicken coop would be nice,” he says. Suddenly he becomes serious.

“You know, my wife and I only have one significant difference: she has aged faster.”

The look on his face says this is not a joke.

“Women age faster here because their lives are so much harder that men’s. It is a local tradition that women eat after everyone else, whatever is left. Pregnancies, childbirths, hard physical labour…As an elected member of the local government, I intend to raise awareness of the problems women have in our communities, such as the disproportionate burden of domestic work and domestic violence,” Bahadur Damai says.

But that’s not the only thing he wants to draw attention to. In this district, former bonded labourers are still not eligible for the Nepali government rehabilitation programme, which promises them land ownership, education for children, and employment opportunities for young people.

Charred trees on a dry field.

Charred trees are a reminder of the fire that brought the small village of Bipatpur to its knees in April. Photo: Uma Bista

Bank accounts secure the future

In Bipatpur, the village women have gathered together under a canopy. In fact, this used to be a house, one of the women points out. The charred roof beams have been removed and replaced with new ones. At noon, the sun is beating down, and the temperature in the shade is approaching forty degrees. It turns out that the name of the village, Bipatpur, means disaster in the local language. This village has certainly had its fair share of disasters, from floods to fires.

Women sit on the ground.
People from Bipatpur gathered to receive cash support from FCA Nepal in order to rebuild houses which were destroyed by the fire in April at Kailari Rural Municipality. The village was also provided support during the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: Uma Bista

But perhaps today things will take a turn for the better. Representatives of the local government and the bank will be visiting the village. With support from FCA, every family that lost their house in the spring fire will receive a humanitarian cash transfer. For those whose homes were damaged to some degree, 13,500 rupees, or about 106 euros, will be offered for reconstruction, and those who suffered the greatest losses will receive 34,500 rupees, or 270 euros. Pregnant women, nursing mothers, families and the elderly will receive an additional 500 rupees.

For the first time, cash transfers will be paid to women’s own bank accounts. This ensures that their money is safe, and that even if another disaster strikes the village, not all of their possessions will be gone.


Text: Elisa Rimaila
Photos: Uma Bista
Translation: Leni Vapaavuori


Finn Church Aid has had a country office in Nepal since 2013. Our work focuses on providing income opportunities for former bonded labourers, on ensuring the realisation of their rights, and on improving women’s livelihoods. After the earthquake in 2015, we built safe school facilities for 44,000 children, trained teachers and supported mental recovery. In 2021, we took action to alleviate the food insecurity affecting nearly 18,000 people as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A baby is sleeping on the ground in Nepal. Women sit around the baby.

Elisha Chaudhary sleeps while her mother Sajita Chaudhary is attending a meeting at Bipatpur. Photo: Uma Bista

FCA improved access to education for 1146 overage and out of school children in hard to reach areas in Somalia

FCA improved access to education for 1146 overage and out-of-school children in hard-to-reach areas in Somalia

People dressed in green and white uniforms stand in two rows, males on the left and females on the right, in a courtyard.

FCA has improved access to quality education for 1146 overage and out-of-school children in areas that are hard to reach in Hudur, Somalia under the Accelerated Basic Education (ABE) programme.

The main primary drivers of humanitarian needs in Somalia are conflict and natural disasters such as drought and flooding. According to Protection Return Monitoring Network (PRMN), around 893,000 people have been displaced in Somalia between January and August 2020, of whom 633,000 were displaced due to food insecurity, 177,000 affected by conflict and 71,000 by drought.

Of all the people displaced in 2020, around 357,200 (40 %) are school-aged children. Often they drop of education because of the disruption in their lives.

The COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 exacerbated the situation as the government was forced to close schools in early March 2020. This led meant that fewer students could access quality education and more than one million children in Somalia were completely outside of schooling.

The situation is worse for marginalised groups, such as girls, children with disabilities, those who live in hard-to-reach areas and those who are overage or outside formal education.

It is against this backdrop that FCA Somalia has implemented an Integrated and Inclusive Education in Emergencies (EiE) Response for Crisis Affected Children in hard-to-reach ares in Hudur district in Bakool region of the Southwest state from June 2020 to June 2021. The project is funded by ECHO.

The response has focused on quality primary education for internally displaced school-age children, catch-up and ABE programmes for out-of-school and overage children within the population that was affected by the conflicts and natural disasters such as drought and floods. In the process, a total of 1146 ABE students, including 600 girls (52 %), were reached and supported at three school centres in Hudur district in level one and level two learning stages of the ABE programme for one academic year from August 2020 to June 2021.

Objectives of the ABE programme

The primary purpose of Accelerated Basic Education (ABE) is to provide learners who missed a primary school education for whatever reason with the opportunity to obtain primary education competencies and sit for the Primary Centralized Examination. It is also meant to reduce and remove the barriers of access to education that lead to children dropping out of or never enrolling in primary school education.

The ABE programme further allows for flexibility in the teaching and learning processes with negotiable timetable that allows students and their families to meet other demands for their time and attention, including employment and childcare. The ABE programme also emphasises the development of practical skills and transition pathways to both formal education and vocational training after the completion of all the four levels of the programme.

Somalia’s Ministry of Education National ABE policy framework was recently launched with the support of USAID.

ABE students assessment and transition to ordinary classrooms

After one year of schooling in June 2021, the ABE students were allowed to sit the examinations prepared by their teachers. The exams varied according to their levels of education, age and abilities. 1,121 students (51 % of whom were girls) sat for the final examination.

637 students (50 % both girls and boys) took the level one examination and 457 (50 % both girls and boys) of them successfully transited to grade 3 in the formal school. Unfortunately 180 students (84 girls) were not able to transit. They will be allowed to continue to level two under the new ECHO project that is starting in July 2021.

On level two, 484 students (257 girls, 53 %) sat for the examination and 87 % of them (422/51 % girls) successfully passed and transited to grade five in an ordinary classroom. In comparison, 61 students (39 girls) failed the exam. They will be supported for another six months under the new ECHO project within the Catch programme before their performance is assessed again.

The students who could not sit for examination because of various reasons, such as Covid-19 and other illnesses and their families’ displacement will be offered another chance once the schools reopen in August.

Overall under the FCA ABE programme 2020, 77 % of the students (51 % of them girls) successfully transited to ordinary classrooms. In the beginning of the academic year in August they will start their new classes in formal schools.

Text: Mohamed Dugoow

FCA launches an ECHO-funded project to enhance access to Education for displaced children in hard-to-reach areas of Southwest State of Somalia

FCA launches an ECHO-funded project to enhance access to Education for displaced children in hard-to-reach areas of Southwest State of Somalia

More than a dozen people sitting in a meeting.

We are happy to announce the launch a 12-month Education in Emergencies project in the Southwest State (SWS) of Somalia to fulfil the right to education of displaced children in areas that especially hard to reach. The READ Project is aimed at restoring and maintaining safe access to quality education for 7,000 crises-affected children so that they can enter or return to protective learning opportunities.

FCA will be implementing the project with its local partner Gargaar Relief Development Organization (GREDO) and it will operate in hard-to-reach areas of El-Berde Baidoa and Hudur. The project is funded by EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) in its quest to support the improvement of access to quality education in Somalia.

The READ project is striving to improve children’s access to a safe, inclusive and protective learning environment; to enhance the capacity of teachers and other education personnel to provide quality education and learning outcomes; and to strengthen safety and child protection mechanisms in target schools for psychosocial well-being, protection and safeguarding of affected children.

In El-Berde, only 8 % of school-aged children (1,574 in total, incl. 884 males and 690 females) are enrolled in one public primary school and eight meant for IDPs, with 12,198 children estimated to be out of school. Although the district only hosts 3,500 IDPs, FCA assessed that the needs for education are incredibly high, as 698 children (402M; 296F) are learning in the only available six classrooms, where there are on average 116 students per classroom.

Similarly, Hudur has the population of around 100,437 with around 42,504 IDPs (24,322 males and 36,482 females) residing in 26 IDP settlements across the district.

The Director General of Ministry of Education (MoE) of Southwest State of Somalia Fadal Abdullahi Mursal attended the launch meeting. He told that a delegation from the MoE visited Hudur town late last month to investigate the impact of FCA’s earlier ECHO-funded education project.  They found great impact on the ground in terms of improved access to education.

“During our stay in Hudur, we had a meeting with the CECs and parents and they informed us that they are fully satisfied with FCA’s education program, especially the Accelerated Basic Education (ABE) system which supported many out-of-school children,” says Fadal Abdullahi Mursal, the DG of Ministry of Education of Southwest State.

The deputy minister for Education of Southwest hailed the ongoing FCA efforts in Bakool Region and requested FCA to expand their education projects and reach to the other Southwest State regions.

“Giving children a brighter future through education comes with commitment. I therefore request FCA to expand their education programmes to Lower Shebelle which is also part of Southwest State Regions,” says Abdifatah Isak Mohamed.

Finally, FCA’s Acting Somalia Country Director and the Programme Manager Mr. Bashir Fidow has appreciated the MoE-SWS partnership and pledged that FCA will continue working to enhance education for displaced people in hard-to-reach areas. 

“On behalf of FCA Somalia, we are happy to be working closely with the Mistry of Education of Southwest State as a partner. FCA has been providing and implementing Education in Emergencies programmes in SWS since 2018, including Hudur town in Bakool region, which is a hard-to-reach zone,” Bashir Fidow says. “Our new ECHO project 2021-2022 is expanded to Elberde, which is also a hard-to-reach area. FCA will continue working with the MoE of the Federal Government of Somalia and Federal Member State of Southwest to make sure that children in hard-to-reach areas receive quality education and that teachers are qualified.”

FCA has started its EiE response in Baidoa and other hard to reach areas of SWS in 2018, with support from ECHO HIP 2018 and 2020, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland (MFA) and FCA’s own Disaster Fund. To date, the interventions have enabled 15,500 crisis-affected children (45 % girls and 400 CWD) have access inclusive education through safe learning environments, improved quality of education and school-based protection mechanisms. Among these children, 1299 (45 % girls) are Accelerated Basic Education (ABE) learners.

Text: Mohamed Dugoow

Knowledge Management Central in Advancing Inclusive Local Governance in Somalia

Knowledge Management Central in Advancing Inclusive Local Governance in Somalia

A group of people posing on a lawn.

For years, FCA has worked with its partners systematically and successfully to involve women, youth and marginalised groups in decision-making. Sharing knowledge and learning from others is central to this work.

Successful district council formation is a key milestone in building inclusive local governance structures and systems. Since 2017, four district councils have been successfully formed with active and inclusive participation of the community including women, youth and marginalized groups, with the efforts and support by FCA and its partners. The four areas include Berdale and Hudur of South West, Afmadow of Jubaland and South Galkacyo of Galmudug.

In June, FCA engaged partners, federal and local government officials and key actors to reflect on the overall progress, achievements, challenges, lessons learned and remaining priorities in inclusive local governance in Somalia.

Active dialogue and knowledge management in a recent workshop

The workshop, held in Mogadishu on 21-22 June 2021, brought together more than 45 key figures in local governance. The aim was to promote collective reflection and knowledge management and to address remaining priorities in the work towards inclusive governance particularly in the district council formation processes and the promotion of women’s political participation in Somalia.

Mr. Mustafa Adaf, the Director-General of the Ministry of Interior Affairs and Local Governance of South West State of Somalia, briefly highlighted the success stories, challenges and lessons learnt from the established district councils in South West State.

“So far four district councils have been formed in South West State with strong representation of women in the elected councils including ten women out of 21 elected council members in Diinsor, five women out of 21 in Waajid, and two out of 21 in Berdale, while Hudur has zero women representation in the district council,” Mustafa said.

FCA has been implementing various programmes promoting inclusive local governance through district council formation (DCF) and increasing women’s political participation since 2016, with the support of the EU delegation to Somalia, USAID/TIS+ and the Somalia Stability Fund.

Learning from experience

Officials from the Ministries of Interior, Federal Affairs and Reconciliation (MOIFAR) at the federal and state levels across Somalia, district administrations and councils, elders, women’s groups and networks and key stabilisation actors were actively participating in the lively discussions. The participants identified and discussed the results and successes of FCA and its partners’ interventions and contribution to promoting inclusive local governance and gender equality and the social inclusion of women, youth and marginalised groups.

The participants of the workshop also explored lessons on what has and not worked in past and ongoing interventions to foster learnings for the benefit of the other districts that are currently undertaking the district council formation in accordance with the Wadajir National Framework for Local Governance. In addition, the workshop also charted the way forward in addressing remaining priorities for effective, future programming.

The workshop’s outcomes will be collated and a publication will be compiled for internal and external knowledge management. The document will be distributed among the numerous actors working to support state-building processes in Somalia.

Advancing women’s participation

Not only is successful district council formation a historic milestone in promoting democratic process and inclusive local governance, but also in terms of women’s political participation. This is the first time in the history of South West State for women to achieve such a representation among elected council members.

“One of the lessons we learned in the previous council formations such as in Berdale and Hudur in 2017 was the need to emphasise the importance of the role of women. From such experiences, we started discussing a quota system for women’s participation in the DCF process in other districts. Once we secured that women can have meaningful participation, we proceeded with the process. So, in a nutshell, women participation can only be achieved, if the government and actors collaboratively engage the community to campaign for women in the process,” Mr. Adaf draws together lessons learned.

Text: Mohamed Dugoow and Leakhena Sieng

FCA contributing to profound shift in women’s political participation in Somalia

FCA contributing to profound shift in women’s political participation in Somalia

FCA’s persistent work has led to a significant increase in women’s political participation in Somalia and contributed to a change in local decision-making.

Two of Finn Church Aid’s (FCA) projects in Somalia have helped to move the country towards sustainable peace by advancing gender equality and increasing women’s political participation. FCA has strengthened women’s capacities, increased their opportunities for civic participation, and helped to build fair and equal governance bodies at different levels through trainings, discussions and multi-level advocacy.

“FCA’s team in Somalia works in a challenging environment but on the other hand, the timing of this intervention has fitted well into the state building process following the civil war,” Programme Manager Bashir Fidow from FCA Somalia office tells.

Somalia is one of the most unequal countries towards women due to cultural beliefs and institutional bias and discrimination. Many people still believe that women belong at home and do not have a place in the informal or formal decision making structures. Traditional practices and customary laws are often applied instead of state judiciary. Historically the representation of women in politics is very low.

FCA’s work to increase women’s involvement in politics and in the society

Within the Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) project framework, there have been numerous trainings, citizen interface dialogues, debates, and meetings. FCA Somalia team with their partners Centre for Research and Development (CRD) and Ministry of Women and Human Right Development (MoWHRD) have advocated for women’s participation in politics. These platforms provided by the projects have offered women an important channel to be heard but also to learn from each other. The results have been encouraging as hundreds of women have participated in trainings about their rights and the social and civic responsibility of active citizens and elected leaders which has given them the confidence and the skills to participate in decision-making processes.

FCA has advanced inclusive district council formation, including the quota of at least 30 % women in the newly formed district councils. The project has contributed to significant political developments. FCA led the consortium that supported the establishment of four district councils in Berdale and Hudur of SWS in 2018, and Afmadow in Jubaland and Galkacyo in Galmudug in late 2020 with inclusive participation of women and youth. Two women were elected as council members in Berdale, five in Galkacyo and another two in Afmadow. A National Gender Policy was developed for the South West State. In the local elections in the South West State, the number of women’s seats saw a significant increase. There are currently 16 female parliamentarians and a female deputy speaker in the SWS Assembly.

FCA Somalia has implemented several projects in Somalia to promote inclusive governance and women’s political participation. ‘Gender Equality and Social Inclusion’ (GESI) worked in Baidoa, Hudur and Berdale Districts of the South West State (SWS) and was funded by the Somalia Stability Fund (SSF).

‘Strengthening local governance structures and systems for more accountable and inclusive Federal Member States in support of the Wadajir National Framework’ Phase II’ targeted the district council formation through democratic process in the SWS, Hirshabelle, Jubaland and Galmudug, and was funded by the EU. The goal of Strengthening Local Governance project was to bring inclusiveness to District Council formation and have a 30 % quota for women.

FCA has worked in Somalia since 2008 and advanced sustainable peace from the beginning. The country programme operates in four states, South West State, Hirshabelle, Galmudug and Jubaland, and has been active during the time when the federalism and decentralisation efforts have been taking place. FCA has operations also in Mogadishu and Somaliland.

Advocacy on multiple levels of society

“A key element in these projects has been the multi-level strategic advocacy,” says Business Development Manager Leakhena Sieng from FCA Somalia.

The projects’ partners have been essential for effective advocacy. The MoWHRD has supported FCA in building networks and organised meetings and platforms for women and the political gatekeepers to meet, discuss and make decisions.

“FCA’s interventions engaged people on the local level, clan leaders as well as ordinary families,” tells Abdulwahab Osman, acting Local Governance Project Manager at FCA Somalia. “The projects have harnessed networks of women to advocate with traditional and religious leaders about the importance of women’s participation. There have been numerous occasions, workshops and discussions, where the importance of women’s engagement has been debated.”

The GESI project worked with clan elders so that they support and indeed enable women’s active political participation. Somalia’s governance system is heavily influenced by the clan-based social structure and without the support of clan elders, women’s inclusion and leadership is difficult. FCA identified traditional and local leaders as important change agents early on. When the local leaders are convinced about the need to have women in positions of power, in Somalia that is a major advantage, in relation to local communities as well as political leaders.

It has been important to challenge the traditional structures and roles that have prevented women from participating actively in the society. Women have been discouraged from education and girls have been denied their right to learn. The women that FCA has trained have visited villages and spoken to women themselves as well as their families to show how women can take an active role and why they should do it.

“One central goal has been to increase overall public awareness and now 56 per cent of the project’s beneficiaries say that they are able to influence decisions in their community,” tells Leakhena Sieng.

Two women holding their hands on a book on the table.

Women supporting and helping each other

FCA wanted to provide aspiring women the tools and the confidence that they need to participate actively in politics. The BAY Women Association Network (BAYWAN) has been key to this process. The network was established by the 207 trained women by FCA and CRD with the purpose to provide a supporting circle for women from all backgrounds and age groups to come together and exchange views and experiences.

The BAYWAN has contributed to change in various levels of society. They have been a great asset to the GESI project in arguing for and advocating women’s active participation in society and girls’ education and equal rights.

“FCA selected 150 young women from universities’ political sciences department to participate in trainings and discussions, with the aim of preparing future leaders, helping them to form networks, giving them confidence to speak out and providing them with a platform for discussions and dialogues with their peers and mentors,” Mr Fidow says.

Well-dressed women and men sitting in rows.

FCA brought together the young aspiring women and female politicians to inspire the younger generation. The Ministry of Women offered internships and volunteer opportunities for university students. What these women with FCA and its partners have done locally in the South West State has been so successful and inspirational that these good practises have spread and have been adopted in different districts in Somalia.

Profound change towards sustainable peace is possible

FCA’s efforts in Somalia to increase women’s political participation and gender equality has overall been a great success. FCA has helped to bring together the media and key decision-maker and people of power. Because of the publicity that the increase of the number of women in politics has received in the media, especially in Galkacyo, Afmadow and Diinsoor, where a number of women have been elected as council members, this has become a mainstream issue, Mr Fidow says.

FCA’s projects have had a huge impact. More than 700 women and numerous clan and religious leaders have been trained as leaders and agents of change for gender equality and women’s empowerment. The number of women in politics has increased and the enthusiasm of young women at universities shows that this trend is likely to continue.

“Now we are ahead of the other federal states in terms of women’s political participation. I urge other states to be like SWS and provide women political space,” says Faduma Ali Ahmed, MP in the SWS District Assembly.

The UN Sustainable Development Goal number five states that ‘gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world’ and this is very important in a country like Somalia that has been suffering from civil war and violent extremism for decades.

Goal 16, ‘promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels’ is intimately tied to FCA’s work in Somalia. The results of FCA’s projects show that great steps have been taken in Somalia towards this goal.

Written by: Nora Luoma

Photos: Abdulwahab Osman