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.

Sports as a Tool to Combat Gender-Based Violence that Has Become Widespread in Somalia

Hawa Feminist Coalition uses sport as a tool to combat gender-based violence that has become widespread in Somalia and also as a way of reducing a girl’s risk of experiencing GBV. As a result of this, Hawa Feminist Coalition organized a series of sport, gaming, and networking events for young women and girls, particularly for the survivors of gender-based violence from marginalized communities such as internally displaced people and refugees in Garowe, Somalia, to promote their physical and mental well-being and also to rebuild their lives and take back control of their bodies after trauma.

With support of ONSIDE Fund, Hawa Feminist Coalition started a sports project in Garowe in October 2022 that lasted until May 2023. The project hired a coach, rented a stadium and provided necessary materials to train girls for sports in Garowe, Somalia.

In this project, 115 girls, aged 5 to 15, were trained in football, the majority of whom are internally displaced people, returned refugees, or members of other marginalized communities in Garowe, Somalia. Under the guidance of a professional female coach, these 115 girls received rigorous training consisting of tactical parts, skill parts, small-sided games, and team building to give them a well-rounded understanding of the game. They have also had opportunities to explore positions, gain an awareness of their strengths, and learn a variety of game skills. The training and gaming events were held in a fun, safe, and supportive environment, considering the deeply patriarchal culture existing in Somalia, where a girl playing football is frowned upon.

This project also helped establish the first five all-girl football groups in Garowe, Somalia. The first group, Araweelo FC, which has 24 members, is named after a legendary and brave queen called Araweelo, who ruled somewhere in Somalia. The second group, Aisha FC, which has 21 members, is named after and in tribute to Aisha Ilyes Aden, a 12-year-old girl who was brutally murdered after being kidnapped, raped, and tortured in 2019 in Galkayo, Somalia. The third group is named Horseed with 19 members, and the fourth and fifth groups have 16 members each.

Hawa Feminist Coalition conducted a competition game for these girl-led sports groups with the participation of 150 young girls as onlookers. These sports events helped these girls feel empowered, get physical and emotional strength, and have the ability to exercise their rights, raise their voices, and begin to challenge the very social barriers, such as inequity, patriarchy, and rigid gender roles that perpetuate gender-based violence and other gender inequalities, that have been prevalent in Somalia. This has also increased girls’ participation in sports in Somalia, where traditionally people see sports as a man’s game.

This has been the most successful achievement for our organization and our girls, despite some challenges due to existing religious and cultural barriers in Somalia that prevent girls from playing sports. Some of the difficulties included the publication of the girls playing sports on social media platforms and bringing male audiences or players to the sports pitch. Furthermore, some of the girls who were not happy with being photographed or having their pictures shared were excluded from the pictures. The principle of ‘Do No Harm’ is key to our organization and programming, and we always protect the privacy and confidentiality of our beneficiaries.

Hawa Feminist Coalition previously organized 31 sports events throughout Somalia to challenge sexual and gender-based violence, including domestic violence, rape, and sexual abuse, that remained widespread throughout Somalia as a result of continued insecurity, weak rule of law, gender inequality, and oppressive cultural practices and norms. Hawa Feminist Coalition also supported and facilitated the establishment of the first five basketball all-girl teams in Somalia and provided them with training and equipment. They have already played 51 games despite existing religious and cultural barriers. Which all improved girls’ health, emotion, self-esteem, and a greater ownership and understanding of their bodies.

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50 vulnerable women and adolescent girls from the most vulnerable communities in Somalia trained how to make reusable sanitary pads

The closure of stores and public transport, rising costs, and increasing economic uncertainty due to COVID-19 measures are all putting menstrual hygiene supplies out of reach for those in poverty in Somalia. The vulnerable and marginalized communities in Somalia, including refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced people (IDPs) living in poverty and in cramped and poor-condition camps, have limited access to basic services. COVID-19 directly impacted the lives of a population already living under the strain of widespread poverty and decades of armed conflict and insecurity. In addition to the COVID-19 impacts, the burden of devastating humanitarian consequences as a result of the prolonged and severe drought conditions in Somalia further accentuated the lack of access to menstrual hygiene products and left young women from marginalized communities without access to period products like sanitary pads.

Sanitary pads are expensive and often inaccessible, and some girls resort to managing their periods with pieces of rags or paper, which are often unhygienic and uncomfortable, causing chafing, urinary tract infections, reproductive tract infections, and other reproductive health problems.

With the support of the Centre for Disaster Philanthropy through ActionAid International on behalf of Feminist Humanitarian Network (FHN), Hawa Feminist Coalition conducted training for 50 vulnerable women and adolescent girls from the most vulnerable community groups, such as internally displaced people (IDPs), refugees, and people with disabilities in Garowe, Puntland State of Somalia, on how to make their own washable, reusable sanitary pads using commonly-found materials.

Training targeted 50 vulnerable women and adolescent girls from the most vulnerable community groups in Garowe, Somalia, and divided the number among the following groups:

  1. 25 vulnerable women and adolescent girls from the internally displaced people (IDPs) in Garowe
  2. 15 vulnerable women and adolescent girls from the refugees, particularly Yemeni refugees in Garowe,
  3. 10 vulnerable women and adolescent girls from people with disabilities and host communities in Garowe

The training duration was six days held between March 12 and 20, 2023. The topics and sessions covered during the six-day training are detailed below:

Day 1 – Introduction to the Menstrual Cycle and Hygiene Management: The first day of the training was an introductory day that introduced the 50 trainees to the menstrual cycle, normal and abnormal periods, and the risks associated with poor menstrual hygiene management. Trainees also learned how to identify the different types of menstrual products available on the market.

Day 2 – Understanding Reusable Sanitary Pads: On the second day of the training, the trainees were taught about the different types of reusable sanitary pads available and their different materials. The many ways to create these reusable menstrual products include the method and the materials that can be used, such as leftover quilting cotton, linen, hemp, flannel, fleece, and thicker, more stable knits. The other materials, like using water-proof or water-resistant materials for the bottom of the outer layer of the pad, are perfect for this.

Day 3 – Maintenance and keeping hygienic standards of the pads and awareness on GBV: On the third day of the training, trainees were taught about how to maintain and clean the reusable sanitary pads, including cleaning techniques such as rinsing in cold water, storing in a wetbag or bucket, soaking heavily stained pads in water with salt or stain remover, washing on a decent length wash cycle at no more than 30 °C, and also air drying. The trainer explained the importance of quality control and how to maintain specific standards when producing reusable sanitary pads.

Day 4 and 5 – Trainer’s-led Practical Demonstrations: On the fourth and fifth days of the training, more trainer-led demonstrations were taught, such as practical lessons on how to use needles and threads for the production of reusable sanitary pads. Trainees were taught practically how to thread the needle, and how to control the sewing. The trainer demonstrated how to meet specific guidelines and produce high-quality, reusable sanitary pads. Trainees also watched a video showing the step-by-step process of how to make the reusable sanitary pads, including the materials, sizes, linings, and sewing.

Day 6 – Trainees’-led Practical Sessions: On the last day of the training, trainees were put on a practical exercise where they were tasked with making the pad by themselves, and each trainee was given materials consisting of a printed guidebook, a pen, A4 papers, a ruler, thin cloth, several buttons, cotton fabric (towel), a needle, a scissor, pins, and one thread to use for making the pad by hand. Patterns for various sizes of pads are also provided to produce different sizes. Each trainee was required to produce one pad successfully in 5 hours with the coaching of the trainer.

The six-day training provided for 50 trainees, of which five days were teaching and tutoring and the last day was practical exercise, where trainees were required to practice what they had learned from the training and make their own sanitary pads using the knowledge they acquired during the training, was delivered successfully.

All the trainees gained the necessary knowledge to make pads, fully understood the process and steps taken and the kind of materials used in making the pads. Trainees demonstrated their level of understanding on the last day of the training, when each of them made a pad using the materials provided. The finishing of each trainee was checked carefully to ensure she followed the process taught in the training and the product was usable and perfect. The result shows 41 out of 50 trainees made the pad perfectly, while the remaining 9 made small errors. This shows that 82% of the trainees proved their excellence in making their own menstrual pads using commonly found materials for themselves and their families.

The training ended with success, achieved its objective, and trained 50 vulnerable women and adolescent girls from the most vulnerable community groups, such as internally displaced people (IDPs), refugees, and people with disabilities in Garowe, Puntland State of Somalia, on how to make their own washable, reusable sanitary pads using commonly-found materials.

These vulnerable women and adolescent girls gained invaluable skills, and every one of them successfully produced a pad with their hand, which is proof that they can have access to sustainable sanitary protection and good menstrual hygiene at their fingertips from now on. These vulnerable women and adolescent girls are also capable of helping their communities since they know how to sew and probably have a bunch of fabric scraps hanging around. Each of the training participants received a book translated into Somali, which is a do-it-yourself book or step-by-step guide in the local language, so other women and adolescent girls can learn from it how to design and produce their own reusable menstrual pads using commonly found materials, as well as how to maintain these pads hygienically to maintain their period in a healthy and dignified manner.

This is expected to positively promote accessibility to menstrual hygiene products for vulnerable women and adolescent girls among internally displaced people (IDPs), refugees, and people with disabilities in Garowe, Somalia, who have been affected by the COVID-19 prevention measures.

For more information, click here to download the training report or you can contact the project team through email: info@femsom.org or through our whatsApp: https://wa.me/message/MQOZHDMXX2OOA1.

Mental And Psychological Support Training Provided For 100 100 Young Feminist Activists In Bosaso, Somalia

Women and girls who constitute approximately half of Somalia’s population are subjected to systematic discrimination, exclusion and injustice in all spheres of social, economic and political life. Sexual and gender-based violence including domestic violence, rape, and sexual abuse remains widespread throughout Somalia as a result of the continued insecurity, weak rule of law, gender inequality and oppressive cultural practices and norms. Recent spikes in intimate partner violence, rape, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment and abuse have multiplied GBV risks for women and girls with worsening impact on women and girls from the marginalized communities such as internally displaced people and refugees. This is compounded by limited availability of specialized GBV treatment services such as mental psychosocial support and for survivors of gender-based violence in 39 IDPs camps in Bosaso where more than 132,000 are living. This was a major gap for survivors of gender-based violence suffering from mental illness including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder to have access to mental and psychological support to take back control of their bodies, sexuality, and lives.

As result of this, with support of Comic Relief USA, Hawa Feminist Coalition trained young feminist activists (including volunteers who are refugees or internally displaced persons) to provide mental and psychological support along medical care for survivors of gender-based violence from marginalized communities such as internally displaced persons and refugees in Bosaso, Somalia.

The main goal was to ensure that survivors of gender-based violence suffering from mental illness including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder have access to mental and psychological support to take back control of their bodies, sexuality, and lives. These include training of 100 young feminist activists (including volunteers who are refugees or internally displaced persons) on mental and psychosocial support skills to expand mental health and psychosocial services to marginalized communities in Bosaso.

This was a highly participatory and interactive training to involve all participants in the discussion centered on simplified and translated materials and to guide the participants on the training progress. The approach was based on problem-based learning using practical exercises, group work, role plays and case studies to keep trainees engaged in the training, which makes them more receptive to the knowledge. This  given the trainer in-session feedback on how well trainees are learning.

Th following subjects relating to the mental health and psychosocial support for GBV survivors were provided for the trainees:-

  1. Principles and guidelines for mental health and psychosocial support for GBV survivors
  2. Psychological First Aid
  3. Developing key mental health and psychosocial support messages for the affected
  4. Advocating for mental health and psychosocial support with key stakeholders
  5. Establishing mental health and psychosocial support activities and identifying and collaborating with key stakeholders in the community
  6. Developing a plan of action, coordination and cooperation with other peers

Hawa Feminist Coalition, the leading organization is entirely led by young feminist all under the age of 35. The project officer and trainees were also young women all under the age of 35. Hawa Feminist Coalition believed and involved its members and target youth members to provide input in the planning, designing and delivering of any activity to give them a sense of ownership and more sustainable into the future. Furthermore, there was a feedback and learning loop that allowed continuous program modification based on their input.

Hawa Feminist Coalition has members from the marginalized communities such as IDPs and refugees who are working to raise awareness against the widespread sexual and gender-based violence including domestic violence, sexual abuse, rape, female genital mutilation and early marriage. These members who are tireless working with survivors of gender-based violence in their communities will ensure that survivors of gender-based violence suffering from mental illness including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder have access to mental and psychological support to take back control of their bodies, sexuality, and lives.

This project was led by Ms. Mariam Mohamed Hussein, 21 years old young feminist activist who have been advocating for the safety, equality, justice, rights and dignity of young women and girls in Somalia where they bear an unequal brunt of hardships occasioned by poverty, conflict and clan-based culture which promotes strict male hierarchy and authority. Ms. Hussein is a co-founder of Hawa Feminist Coalition, the first feminist movement in Somalia, and trained 55 young women and girls on mental and psychological skills to support the survivors of gender-based violence suffering from mental illness including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder in Somalia. Ms. Hussein was recognized and listed at WOW’s Young Leaders Directory in 2020.

16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence

16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is a global campaign calling for an end to violence against women and girls. It takes place every year and begins on the 25th November, the International Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women and finishes on Human Rights Day, the 10th of December.

Usually on this occasion, Hawa Feminist Coalition undertakes series of awareness rising campaigns and conducts range of activities such as creating and publishing stories, messages and reports illustrating the experience, prevalence and thoughts of gender-based violence (GBV)  as well as sharing messages of solidarity and commitment to take action for an end of GBV.

You too can connect and join the campaign by creating your own stories, art and contents or further distributing our messages and stories in your social media networks. You can share with us your stories or strong messages to stop the violence and end the silence.

Hawa Feminist Coalition prepares the below social media graphics and messages that you can use for raising awareness during the activism days, post or redistribute through the online platforms.

Mention us in your social media posts and use the following hashtags to see and count in your contributions in the trends.

Hashtags: #16Days #orangetheworld #endGBV #orangeday #StopTheViolence #GenerationEquality

Our Social media accounts: Facebook , Twitter , Instagram , LinkedIn

Send messages to:  16days@femsom.org

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.

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HAWA FEMINIST COALITION
Bosaso, Puntland Somalia

The dead body of Nafisa Omar found in a cooking pot in Mogadishu

We are so saddened about tragic death of Nafiso Omar Gelle 12, who went on missing 3 days ago but found her dismembered and tortured body today in a big cooking pot in her family house in Mogadishu. We want to express our solidarity to our fallen sister’s family and relatives, colleagues, and to all young women and girls in the country who are grieving the loss of  beloved sister.

Somalia has been scarred by a series of high-profile sexual abuse cases recently and further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. We urge the Police to conduct an immediate investigation into the death of Nafiso Omar Gelle and bring all those responsible to justice.

Jawahir A. Mohamed

Executive Director,

Hawa Feminist Coalition

Statement: Hawa Feminist Coalition condemns Two Sisters Killed In Mogadishu

Hawa Feminist Coalition condemns the death of Fahdi Adow Abdi and Faiza Adow Abdi in Mogadishu in the night of April 22, 2021 after a mortar landed in their house. We note with grave concern the increasing violence and repressive context against young women and girls these days.

We, members of Hawa Feminist Coalition want to express our solidarity to our fallen sisters’ family and colleagues and to all young women and girls in the country who are grieving the loss of these beloved sisters in Mogadishu.

We urge the Federal Government of Somalia and Benadir Regional Administration to conduct an immediate investigation into the killing of Fahdi Adow Abdi and Faiza Adow Abdi and bring all those responsible to justice.

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