An activist’s pledge: Fight gender-based violence in Baidoa
Hodan Mohamed Hassan is no stranger to adversity, despite the meaningful life she has built for herself over the years.
“I was forced to marry before I could finish my studies, then lost my husband during the civil war. I had to struggle to provide for my six children,” she recalls. “Many of the women I knew lived desperate lives, surviving abuses of all kinds.”
Motivated by these experiences, Hodan has established in 2012 the Somali Aid Agency Fund, a
community-based organization that assists vulnerable women and girls in the capital city of Baidoa and other regions in the South West state.
“We support women and girls who experience different sorts of violence,” says Hodan. “We work with women from minority clans, as well abandoned or single mothers who are either divorced or widowed, or living in camps for internally displaced persons or poor urban communities.”
Hodan knows that victims of gender-based violence must overcome the most complex and difficult situations.
“These women and girls are faced with health and psychological consequences of the violence they have been subjected to,” explains Hodan. “More often than not, revealing their traumatic experience leads to being stigmatized by their own communities.”
The work of the Somali Aid Agency Fund is aligned with national and global efforts to end violence against women, and to advocate for a culture of respect and protection. Joining the global campaign “16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence,” running from 25 November to 10 December, Hodan and her colleagues use drama and poems to raise awareness and educate.
“We want to empower women and girls about their rights, about how can they prevent and report cases of gender-based violence,” notes Hodan.
Changing a culture, Hodan adds, requires recognition at all levels of the heinous nature of gender-based violence, and strong allies.
“Our police officers, clan elders, health professionals, traditional leaders, all of us living in our communities have a responsibility to enforce the law, and speak against these crimes,” believes Hodan.
The campaign “16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence” is organized around the world annually from 25 November, marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, the Human Rights Day. This year’s theme, “Leave no one behind: End violence against women”, reinforces the United Nations and global community’s commitment to a world free from violence against women and girls, while reaching the most underserved, marginalized or vulnerable.