Mental And Psychological Support Training Provided For 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 health 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 health 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.