Extreme weather continues to affect Somalia – FCA grants additional funding for its humanitarian aid operation
FCA granted 200,000 euros of additional funding from its disaster fund to ease the crisis created by the prolonged drought in Somalia.
SOMALIA AND the entire Horn of Africa region have suffered from a severe drought for almost three years after five rainy seasons failed to materialise. In 2022 Somalia was also threatened by famine due to the ongoing drought. The hunger crisis killed 43,000 people in Somalia last year alone. About half of the dead were children under the age of five.
At the beginning of 2023, some parts of Somalia were hit by another form of extreme weather – experiencing heavy rains and flooding.
“The whole of Somalia has been suffering from prolonged drought and its effects for a long time. Unfortunately, the recent rains have been so violent that they have caused floods, which damage habitat and livelihoods, especially in the Gedo area,” says FCA’s Somalia country manager Ikali Karvinen.
Cash assistance replaces livelihoods lost through drought
“With the help of the new funding granted by the Disaster Fund, we will be able to respond to the suffering on the Somaliland side as well. The purpose of emergency aid is to help meet the basic everyday needs of families in the midst of a humanitarian crisis.”
The assistance covers 600 of the most vunerable families – that amounts to about 3,600 people in the Burao and Togdheer regions of Somaliland. FCA distributes cash assistance to families for a total of three months. The cash allowance corresponds to approximately 74 euros per month. It allows families to obtain vital supplies such as food and water.
In addition, a total of 50 people in the region, who participate in business mentoring training organised by FCA, will receive assistance. The target of the project is particularly women and disabled people who have lost their existing small businesses due to the drought.
Drought and violent terrorism have driven millions of Somalis to be internal refugees
In Somalia, famine threatens around 4–6 million people. According to UN estimates, about half of Somalis need humanitarian aid due to drought and conflicts. As many as 8 million people do not have access to clean water. Added to that, acute malnutrition, cholera and measles are also spreading in the country.
Drought and violent terrorism have driven millions of Somalis to be internal refugees. The movement of millions of people from one place to another in a country where living conditions are already poor increases the risk of internal conflicts in the country. In addition, the war in Ukraine has increased the price of food and worsened inflation in Somalia.
The UN recently estimated that the drought would lead to up to 135 deaths per day in Somalia between January and June. It is feared that the situation will deteriorate to as bad as in 2011, when more than 260,000 people died of starvation, half of them children. The last bad drought period hit Somalia in 2016–2017. A fast and robust global response led to lives being saved. This time, however, global funding has significantly fallen short.
FCA has granted approximately 580,000 euros from its disaster fund to alleviate the humanitarian crisis caused by climate change in Somalia during the past two years.
More information: FCA Somalia Country Director, Ikali Karvinen ikali.karvinen(at)kua.fi
FCA International Communications Manager, Ruth Owen ruth.owen(at)kua.fi
Educating the next generation of children in South-West Somalia
The right to quality education is at the core of FCA’s work. In Somalia, FCA helps children access free education in the Bay region through our EU funded Accelerated Basic Education programme. The programme helps kids with school equipment, catch-up classes and extracurricular activities.
Many of the schoolchildren we help have missed out on primary education due to fleeing conflict, drought or poverty. 2286 children have been reached since July 2021 in the Baidoa, Hudur, Elbarde and Wajid districts of Somalia. Starting with FCA cash transfers, families can buy children school uniforms, books and stationery to attend class.
FCA also helps to provide sports and child-friendly spaces, which improve kids’ overall psychosocial wellbeing to combat distress caused by conflict and other crises.
Two students enrolled on the ABE programme recently shared their experiences.
“I had to stay home and help with the chores”
Lulay Osman Ibrahim, 14, attends Mustaqbal Integrated Primary School and lives with her mother and five siblings in Baidoa camp for internally displaced people. Her mother, Safia, made the decision to leave Dinsoor two years ago due to violent conflict in the region and ongoing drought.
“I was living with my children in Dinsoor and had a small farm where I grew vegetables but due to the prolonged drought and long conflict in the town, it was no longer possible” says Safia.
“Life became difficult, especially for single mothers like myself, so I decided to come to Baidoa town and settled in the IDP camp to seek support ” she adds.
Lulay wanted to go to school, but there were barriers to her attending.
“When I saw the hard life in the IDP camps and the struggle my mother was undergoing, I became more eager to go school and study so I could later help my family. That was my dream, but my mother could not afford to buy me uniform and books, so I had to stay home and help her with the house chores,” says Lulay.
“I used to see my friends going to school in the morning, I felt sad, but I had no choice since my mother could not afford to take me to school,” she adds.
Thanks to community awareness efforts by staff from FCA’s Somalia country office, Lulay learned about the APE programme. With her mother’s support, she registered with the school and her family soon received cash support.
After one year, Lulay aced her exams and joined the mainstream classes. She’s now in third grade and hopes to one day become a teacher.
From livestock to learning
Abshir Adan Borow, 17, came from a life of looking after livestock in a remote village. Due to increasing drought, he was sent to live with an aunt in Baidoa.
“I never thought in my wildest dreams that I will find myself in a classroom and learning. I didn’t even know the ABCs when I started going to school, and my numeracy and literacy skills have improved tremendously.”
Abshir also attends Mustaqbal Integrated School under the ABE programme and after two years can now read and write.
The programme also enabled his brother Ismail to attend school, later both transferring to formal primary school classes after passing the ABE transition examination.
“It’s incredible how life can change in just a short time. We might have lost our livestock, but the FCA education programme has given us a ray of hope to look forward to a brighter future,” Abshir gushes.
“One day I want to work as agricultural and livestock expert to assist my community in climate change initiatives and horticulture.”
Aid to Somalia goes directly into the pockets of warlords – right, Ikali Karvinen?
Ikali Karvinen, Finn Church Aid country director in Somalia, has spent a lot of time dealing with the question why people don’t simply move away from places where life is difficult. Now he also responds to tough claims that also appear on FCA’s social media channels.
Ikali Karvinen, you’re currently the head of the FCA office in Somalia. Previously, you’ve been the country director in Cambodia, worked in Eritrea and travelled in places like North Korea. It seems like you’re chasing misery. FCA’s strategy is to work where we’re most needed. People living in these places are having a hard time in many ways; they might not have a livelihood, or the state can’t provide them with an education. It’s a challenge to work in these states, of course, but it’s also an opportunity to learn more.
You’re a Finnish country director in Somalia. That sounds a lot like Finns telling Somalis how things are done. Development co-operation has changed in the past decades, and we international employees have become something comparable to consultants. From Finland, we can bring knowledge and understanding about the immense power education has to change the dynamic of a country. We’re not telling Somalis that this is how you must do things; instead, we tell them about our experiences in Finland that might be useful for them, too. It’s more about offering information. Also, it’s not emphasised enough that we also learn a lot ourselves. What I’ve learned so far in Somalia might improve Finland when I return.
You have a PhD in health science, and you’ve studied subjects like disaster preparation. In Somalia, drought is no longer a surprise to anyone. It’s strange that people aren’t better prepared. In Somalia, a long-running civil war and conflict have made the state collapse. The government isn’t able to maintain even the most basic services. When basic services are lacking, it’s immensely difficult to look into the future and prepare for it. Another important factor is education; it’s not only knowing about the past, but also teaching people to prepare for the future. It’s good to bear in mind that many other countries are very weakly prepared for the rapidly intensifying effects of climate change. Somalia is one of the countries that suffer most from climate change. Together we must ensure that people living in Somalia don’t suffer disproportionately from its consequences.
Somalis on the brink of famine are being supported with cash allowances. That sounds weird, because at the same time we keep hearing about their lack of food – what are they using the cash for? This is an excellent observation. Cash allowances have become more and more common recently, and in addition to FCA, many other organisations deliver them to Somalia. Cash allowances work for as long as there’s a functioning market, and at least currently there are no signs of the market not functioning in Somalia. In other words, if people have money, they can purchase commodities when there’s still food available. The problem is that people living in extreme poverty can’t afford the market prices. People relying on cash allowances have had to leave their homes and practically lose everything they once owned. In their new home, they have nothing, and that’s where a cash allowance can have a significant impact.
Aid makes no sense, because it just goes into the pockets of warlords. This is the kind of critical thinking that’s particularly important in fragile contexts, which is also where FCA works. Somalia is at the bottom of the corruption index, and we can’t close our eyes to the possibility of misconduct. At FCA, financial matters are closely monitored. It’s important for us to have a country office with sufficient staff; this way, we can ensure that the aid goes where it’s supposed to go. For example, in the case of cash allowances, we make sure that the recipients have been registered, and after that, we check that the mobile money has been delivered to the intended recipient’s phone number. This way we aim to ensure that the money goes to the right place.
The best way to battle a drought is to dig a well. Unfortunately this isn’t the case. We have research on how, in the regions most affected by climate change, digging a well might be extremely harmful due to the contamination of groundwater. In Somalia, the best way would be to collect water when there’s rain. A smart thing to do would be to innovate efficient irrigation systems and grow crops suitable for the climate.
Somalia is a textbook example of a country that will never see peace. I understand the feeling of desperation when it comes to Somalia. There are conflict areas where, after a short period of peace, violence breaks out again. To me that means that the reconciliation process has been superficial and ignored some of the parties of the conflict. Finn Church Aid supports a national reconciliation process in Somalia, and we want all civic groups on board; including young people, women, and disabled people from ethnic minorities. That’s how reconciliation is built on solid ground.
Why do people have children, if there’s not even enough food for oneself? Here, having children is in some way a form of social security. We know that in Finland we used to have much larger families, which was partially due to the lack of elderly care or childcare services. In other words, when there are more people in the family, there’s hope that some of them will be able to look after the others. I do agree that the issue is critical for Somalia. It’s crucial that Somalia moves in a direction where children aren’t the only form of social security.
It seems that life has been hard for Somalis decade after decade. They should just leave the country to solve their problems. I have, from my own perspective, wondered what the best place to live is. To many Finns, Finland is the best place. Your home and loved ones tie you to the country you were born in and where you lived your first years, and even difficulties might not make you leave your home. I’ve met Somali women who’ve said that leaving is the last means of survival. In some way it’s a positive thing that people want to believe in a future in their home country. They can see positive things despite huge difficulties, and they believe they can build their society and make the country liveable.
Girls’ education gains ground in Somalia’s hard-to-reach area
Five thousand learners enrolled in school in Hudur in one of the first education interventions in the area, supported by EU Humanitarian Aid (ECHO). Almost half of the learners were girls.
Parents in Somalia’s rural areas have traditionally not valued education, and if the opportunity exists, families typically send only their boys to school. As a result, the interventions in the education sector were few when FCA launched its program in six schools in Hudur in June 2020.
FCA started implementing the education project funded by EU Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) by launching mass awareness-raising campaigns on the importance of education. In addition, community meetings and the forming of local education committees increased the engagement of people.
Child marriage is one of the most significant barriers to girls’ education in areas such as Hudur. Becoming a caretaker of the family and a mother can end their chances of progressing at school.
Poverty is another obstacle to sending children to school. However, within this program, education is free, and the quality of learning is ensured through teacher training and quality learning materials. As a result, the project reached its goal of enrolling five thousand learners. The learners include 2,387 girls, almost half of the total. To keep girls in school during menstruation, 806 girls received monthly sanitary kits. In addition, older boys and girls were given gender-sensitive recreational materials.
Muna Mohamed Haydar, 17, washes her hands outside the school. She says, “My teachers are good and teach well. Math is my favorite subject because I enjoy doing calculations. It is important for us to attend school. Education will help us build a bright future.”
Teacher Lul Mohamed Nur is responsible for the protection and safety of the students. She encourages girls to receive good education. Today, the number of girls is higher than the number of boys in my school. She tells that, “we have achieved this after conducting relentless awareness in the neighborhood, telling families the importance of sending their girls to schools. We give special attention to learners with disabilities. They are often allocated seats at the front of the classroom.”
Hawa Isak Warsame, 16, tells, “my parents couldn’t afford to pay for my school fees but since it is free and they give us uniforms and other learning materials. I am keen to take advantage of this opportunity to educate myself.” Her favourite subject is English and she would like to work for a humanitarian organisation in the future. She also praises the safety of the school: “If one of the learners feel threatened they can submit their complaint into the box FCA has brought us. This really given me and my classmates a strong sense of safety.”
Suleqo Hassan Adan, 10, tells, “I like math because it is easy for me. I want to become a well-known engineer and rebuild my country or a teacher to help those in need in the community.” She also has a strong opinion about equality: “Education is important for everyone whether be it a boy or a girl. Parents must give equal opportunity to their children.”
Hamaro Mohamed Nur is Suleqo’s mother. “My daughter has been attending the school for a year. I always encourage her to go to the school and learn something. At first she used to resist but now she got used to it and she likes going to the school. Her interest has increased since she received uniform and learning materials. She has a lot of energy for her books now. My daughter is a child with special needs, she cannot see well due to her albinism. She told me the teachers make her sit next to the blackboard so that she sees what is written on the board. She really likes her teachers.”
Mohamed Hassan Abdirahman teaches English to internally displaced pupils. “I was motivated by the need of my community. There was no school in the area before we came up with the idea of establishing this learning center. All of the children here were out of school, so I decided to take action along with like-minded friends. As for the learners with disabilities, we pay special attention to them. We try to listen their demands and protect them from bullying. Safety and protection of the students is of high priority for us” and adds that it can protect girls from early marriages.
Zainab Abdullahi Ahmed, 10, goes to school for accelerated basic education (ABE) and says that she enjoys learning new things. “My teachers help me a lot. I don’t feel any problems attending the classes.” She also wants to help others in the future: “When I grow up, I want to become a doctor.”
Maryan Warsame tells that her child has been attending the school for five years. She says that, “as a parent, I am grateful for helping to educate my daughter. Here we consider teachers as second parents and indeed they are second parents because they treat our kids as their own.” She tells that, “I have both daughters and sons and I send all of them to school, but I am more confident in my daughters. An educated girl will always be helpful to her parent.”
Bashir Moallin Mohamed, 18, says he is very ambitious about his education. He praises the teacher for being kind and highly qualified. “English is my favorite subject because I am good at the grammar. I hope to speak good English soon. I want to become a teacher like my teachers and educate the the people in need in the community.”
FCA improved access to education for 1146 overage and out-of-school children in hard-to-reach areas in Somalia
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.
FCA launches an ECHO-funded project to enhance access to Education for displaced children in hard-to-reach areas of Southwest State of Somalia
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.
Knowledge Management Central in Advancing Inclusive Local Governance in Somalia
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.
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.
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.
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.
The school leadership and management training for head and deputy teachers in the Hudur District of Somalia’s South West State is part of an Education in Emergencies response supported by EU Humanitarian Aid (ECHO).
Protracted conflicts and wars combined with recurrent droughts and famine have made it difficult for Somalia’s school system to flourish. Civil conflict, an underdeveloped government and natural disasters have all served to stunt the growth of education in Somalia; however, with the intervention of the international community, the quality of education slowly shows signs of improvement.
Both government and non-profit organizations are developing methods to increase access to quality schools. With the support of EU Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), FCA works with an integrated and inclusive Education in Emergencies response for crisis-affected children in hard-to-reach areas of Somalia. In the Hudur district in the South West State of Somalia, the project increases safe and quality education and learning opportunities for crisis-affected boys and girls both among Internally Displace People (IDP) and host communities.
Still, many hurdles remain. Severe poverty and the nomadic culture that pervades more than half of the population makes sending children to traditional schools impractical and impossible for many families. Hence, many children are dropping out or never attended a lesson in the first place.
Vast gender disparity is another factor that plagues the education system. Less than half of all Somali students are girl, and only a quarter of women between 15 and 24 years of age are literate, versus 38 per cent of men.
In this context, FCA conducted a three-day school leadership and management training for head and deputy teachers at all schools in Hudur District. The quality and quantity of teachers are critical components in achieving the goal of rebuilding the education system.
Major challenges are impeding teacher education quality such as unclear accreditation, lack of teacher training institutions, poor quality assurance system, inadequate funding and disparities in teacher qualifications in Somalia. Poor school leadership further exacerbated this.
The teacher training aimed to help equip the headteachers and the deputy headteachers with the necessary leadership skills and knowledge to improve quality and learning outcomes and the safe learning environment at schools.
Lul Mohamed Nur in her school office in Hudur, Somalia.
Lul Mohamed Nur taught for ten years at her school in Hudur, and it was due to her extensive experience that she was promoted to the position of headteacher two years ago. According to Lul, the training gave her insights on how to manage the school overall administrative structure.
“I feel I have gained new knowledge, which allows me to enhance my career as a schoolteacher in the future. Managing a school attended by close to one thousand students and their teachers is challenging and puts me in a unique position as a female headteacher”, Lul says.
“Before the training, I could not manage the school properly. I want to thank the organization and the facilitators of the training. The leadership and management skills I gained from the training have improved my skills and knowledge in managing and leading the school. I can now evaluate my school’s teachers daily for the interest of my students’ overall learning outcome.”
Dahir Hilowle Sambul says that the training increased the quality of learning in his school in Hudur, Somalia.
Dahir Hilowle Sambul is also one of the six headteachers who benefitted from the training. His school is attended by 1,698 students. Dahir says the training helps him develop effective teaching methods and raise the achievement of his students.
“I am glad that I was allowed the opportunity to participate in this training, it was so useful. The training has helped me carry out my day-to-day tasks, such as assessing the performance of students and teachers. This has increased the quality of learning in my school. One month after the training, every subject’s overall average score per class has improved compared to the previous month. My relationship with the school community has also improved; now they are supporting me in running the school affair unlike before when I ran the school’s management alone’ Dahir says.
South Galkacyo reached a colossal landmark on the 22nd of December 2020 as the district hosted high profile delegates at the inauguration of the recently concluded District Council Formation. The event took place in Hotel Village, Galkacyo.
The event was attended by representatives of the European Union, FCA, and the UN together with Somalia’s Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, Galmudug State President Ahmed Abdi Karie (Qoor qoor), and other top officials from the state administration.
Other federal and state dignitaries included federal Ministers for Security, Higher Education, Social Affairs and Galmudug State Minister for Interior and Security, the Governor of Puntland’s Mudug, and the Mayor of Galkacyo North DCF.
The 27 council members were elected on the 22nd of October 2020 followed by a heated contest for mayor and Deputy mayor’s positions on the 24th of October 2020. The democratic free and fair election process laid the foundation for good governance in Galkacyo district and demonstrated community ownership by involving all the major Galkacyo stakeholders. The election saw unprecedented participation of elders, women and youth groups in the decision-making process.
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony on the 22nd of December in South Galkacyo, the Prime Minister of Somalia, H.E Mohamed Hussein Roble pledged full support for the newly formed district council. “The federal government is fully committed to supporting the newly elected district council in Galkacyo. We commend the international community for supporting the Galmudug State DCF activities” the Somali Prime Minister stated during his speech.
Galmudug State President, H.E Ahmed Abdi Kariye (Qoor Qoor) emphasized the need for bringing services closer to the community at the district level. “My administration is very committed to decentralizing the administration. People elect their district representatives, village leaders and mayors” H. E President Ahmed Abdi Kariye said at the ceremony.
The Prime Minister of Somalia, H.E Mohamed Hussein Roble and Galmudug State President, H.E Ahmed Abdi Kariye (Qoor Qoor) at the inaugurations ceremony.
The newly elected mayor also stated his administration’s immediate priorities. “The newly elected council will focus on good governance, council capacity building, enhancing security, community-based priorities, local revenue location, management, infrastructure and community ownership over the next four years”, Mayor Abdirahman Sheikh Hassan said.
“Primary service will have to be arranged through the Local Governance Institute, and this is an urgent priority to make it fully functional. Representation and democracy are a culture – elected officials have duties at all times and not just at elections. Every citizen has a duty, and only when taxes are paid will local governments work in reality”, said Paul Simkin, Senior Programme Manager for JPLG while attending the ceremony via Zoom.
The elected district council is expected to deliver essential services in the district and improve community well-being by promoting community cohesion to usher new development projects. The council members will receive capacity building to efficiently run the district business in the course of their mandate.
The process led by the Galmudug Ministry of Interior, Federal Affairs and Reconciliation received goodwill and support from the state’s top administration and the local people, with the youth and women playing a pivotal role.
The election strengthened women’s representation compared to the previous care-taker administration following the election of five women in the new council. However, it fell short of the targeted 30% quota. Similarly, the process saw an enormous increase in youth representation. The inclusion of youth and women was essential for inclusivity and empowering the district council’s decision-making process as youth constitute a majority of the district population.
The district council formation process is funded by the European Union (EU). It aims to strengthen local governance structures for more accountable and inclusive federal member states in support of the Wadajir National Framework.
The project is led by FCA and its consortium members, CRD and EISA, in close partnership of the Federal Ministry of Interior, Federal Affairs and reconciliation, and Federal Member State counterpart ministries in the target locations.