Hawa Feminist Coalition Observes The International Day Of The Girl 2023 With An Emphasis On Child Marriage In Somalia

In commemoration of International Day of the Girl, the Hawa Feminist Coalition organized an event attended by some key young feminist activists and members of the Hawa movement. The event was held on the afternoon of October 10, 2023, a day before October 11, which is a day annually observed to advocate for the full spectrum of girls’ rights.


On this occasion, the young feminist activists focused on early marriage and how this has affected the lives of young girls in Somalia. They discussed and talked about the root causes of early marriage and the effects this has on Somali girls. This has been a sustained norm for parents to marry their daughters at a young age, partly in the belief of a better life but also due to poverty and gender inequality. Apart from the gender inequality that is deeply rooted in Somali society, there are other factors behind early marriage, which include economic burdens and poverty, as families take bridedowry as income in the marriage of their daughters.

This miserable practice has only increased in recent years, mainly as a means for families to reduce their economic problems and as a matter of survival. The everlasting conflict and political instability are also other factors that greatly contribute to early marriage. The worsening climate change, and repeated droughts in Somalia are also other drivers greatly contributing to the increase of early marriage among young girls in Somalia.


These multi-generational and gendered norms remained a means of ensuring family honor, securing economic stability, or controlling female sexuality. In the rural Somalia community, 9–15-year-old girls usually drop out of school early. Social norms and gender stereotypes mean that girls are not encouraged to stay in school, with the belief that marriage and child rearing are the only options available to them and should be their only aim in life. There is also a belief in the Somalia community that girls who stay in school and complete their education will find it harder to get married.


“I want people to know that just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean that I’m less favored. People should understand that we have the same capacity as boys and can do better than them if equal rights are given.” Said Sumaya Shirdon, young feminist activist and a senior member of Hawa Feminist Coalition.

“There are many girls who are not as brave as I am, but I like to appeal to all girls in Somalia to not be silent about the problems they are facing. If you don’t speak up and claim your rights, no one will speak up for you.” Said Fatima Farah, a young feminist activist.


The effects of early marriage undermine girls’ and young women’s health, psychosocial wellbeing, and overall quality of life. Early marriage could also lead to other high-risk behaviors, such as smoking and alcohol consumption. Ikran Hassan, a young feminist activist, briefly presented a study that she had conducted earlier, which shows that more than 50% of the young women addicted to drugs and chewing Khat in Somalia were married at a young age.

Days before the International Day of the Girl, there has been a young woman suffering serious mental illness as a result of being physically and sexually abused by her husband. This news was widely circulated on social media, which saddened the Somali people. This is a prime example of the effects of early marriage among girls and has been a good example that attracted many people who condemned the practice and called for a total ban on early marriage in Somalia.


“If you visit the mental health centers across Somalia, you can see many young women suffering mental problems as result of early marriage.” Said Amina, a young feminist activist and MPHS worker.

“I encourage every girl who faces the consequences of early marriage to stand up for saving other girls from this kind of evil practice. Don’t stay silent on these atrocities against girls.” Said Fosia Dahir, a young feminist and member of Hawa Feminist Coalition.


“I ask every girl to share her story publicly; this is the best way we can stop the early marriage practice in Somalia.…..” Said Mariam Abdullahi
.

This was significant occasion marked the rise of young feminist activists who vocalized their firm opposition to early marriage and demanded the immediate end of such practices.

50 emerging young female poets were trained on how to compose poetry in a workshop held in Qardho, Somalia

With support of Karibu Foundation, Hawa Feminist Coalition organized a mentoring and coaching for 50 emerging young female poets, mainly from marginalized communities, in a 5-day workshop held in Qardho, Puntland, Somalia, from June 3, 2023, to June 7, 2023. The main objective of this workshop was to mobilize and empower the emerging young female poets in Somalia so that they can use their talent to raise their voice and end patriarchal norms and gender inequality in Somalia.

These young female poets, who were selected from marginalized communities such as minority groups, internally displaced people, and refugees in Qardho, Somalia, are emerging poets who have a strong interest in poetry but need guidance and further learning of how to compose poetry with the help of experienced poets in order to be perfect in this poetry talent.

A female poet who has a great experience in poetry, mentored the young female poets and taught poetry, particularly Buraanbur. Buraanbur is a poetic form that is usually composed by women, and it is a cultural treasure through which Somali women celebrate, inspire, praise, and essentially prove their talents, creativity, and cultural uniqueness. Buraanbur poetry is a powerful communication tool that Somali women and adolescent girls can use to dismantle the structural and systemic roots of gender discrimination and claim their fundamental rights.

Within Somalia’s oral culture, poetry is especially powerful in influencing people’s attitudes, and Somali history provides ample examples of poets who used their art both to fan the flames of war and to bring peace. As a result of this, poetry is a powerful tool that can be used to address and challenge gender-based violence against women and girls, including domestic violence, rape, sexual abuse, early marriage, and FGM, which are widespread in Somalia.

With the help, guidance, and coaching of an experienced female poet, these 50 emerging young female poets learned how to compose poetry, particularly Buraanbur, in four days in a row. On the fifth day, the young female poets recited poems as a demonstration of what they had learned. The poems conveyed a range of issues regarding women and girls in Somalia, including awareness messages about ending gender-based violence, including domestic violence, rape, sexual abuse, early marriage, and FGM, which remained widespread throughout Somalia. Poems also included messages about the country, patriotism, and the importance of women’s role in society as the backbone of families and communities and requested acknowledgement of that role and the right to equal rights within the community.

Some poems also urged other young women to speak up, learn Buraanbur, and use the poetry to address their needs and bring attention to issues they face, including as gender-based abuse and harmful practices like FGM.

Hawa Feminist Coalition helped the young poets in spreading some of their poems to an audience of up to 200,000 people via social media and local FM radios. These poems promoted awareness among Somali people about the harsh facts of gender-based violence and the negative social norms, harmful beliefs, and practices against women and girls in Somalia. Poems gave these young women a stronger voice and inspired other young women to pursue learning poetry.

The young female poets promised to use their talent to address the issues important to women in Somalia, such as ending rape, sexual harassment, domestic violence, children, early and forced marriage and unions, and female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C), all of which are classified as significant human rights violations under international law and have devastating consequences for the health and lives of girls and women.

“For every girl who wants to be heard, I suggest learning Buraanbur. Since the Buraanbur is the sole tool that can aid women, it should be considered and supported…” says a participant in the workshop

“We would need to be driven by ambition and motivated to use the talent we have acquired; however, our aim of attaining equal rights and justice for all will remain unfulfilled if we remain sitting and untapped to our abilities..” says Ms. Yurub Noor, a participant to the workshop and a feminist activist

These young women poets were extended an invitation by Hawa Feminist Coalition to become activists, joining forces with other courageous young women activists who are dedicated to advocating for the rights and justice of women and girls in Somalia. Hawa Feminist Coalition operates as a membership-based organization, and all young women are eligible to become members.

“We have online community platforms such as WhatsApp groups where young feminist activists and other activists, including young female poets, are safe and encouraged to use their voice and collectively raise attention to their rights and needs. You will have the opportunity to interact with other activists and join the movement by receiving the group’s link, which I will provide…” says Ms. Sumaya Shirdon, a senior member from Hawa Feminist Coalition

At the conclusion of the workshop, the young female poets appreciated Hawa Feminist Coalition and the coach for their excellent leadership, facilitation and clear delivery of lessons and practical demonstrations of the workshop. They also expressed gratitude to the funding organization for supporting this important workshop and requested more similar opportunities in the future.

Statement On Appreciation of Puntland for Approval of Anti- Female Genital Mutilation Bill

We appreciate the cabinet of Puntland for approving the anti- Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) bill as a key step towards a full ban on female genital mutilation in Puntland state in Somalia, where 98% of girls and women undergone FGM. We hope that the Parliament will follow suit and pass the bill smoothly for the benefit of rights of girls and women in the state.

We hope that this to be a good example to other authorities in Somalia and follow suite, and enact similar legal measures to ban female genital mutilation once and for all in their respective territories.

We will continue, together with other partners to advocate elimination of all forms of violence against girls and women in order to achieve a country where women and girls enjoy all their rights and live in dignity.

-End-

HAWA FEMINIST COALITION
Bosaso, Puntland Somalia