Nimo Ibrahim Omar: Using safe spaces for youth mobilisation

12 Aug 2018

Nimo Ibrahim Omar: Using safe spaces for youth mobilisation

The relative peace and stability in Somalia have seen an increased use of safe spaces for transformative youth activities. Young people across the country gather in these spaces to exchange knowledge, share ideas, experiences and skills, and build friendships through arts and sports.

One of these spaces is in the port city of Kismayo where Nimo Ibrahim Omar, 27, leads efforts to empower young people through motivational and leadership building sessions with the support of the Kismayo Youth Organisation that she co-founded three years ago.

Nimo and her colleagues help young people rediscover themselves by teaching them the benefits of staying positively engaged through youth engagement activities. Young people discuss topical issues such as conflict resolution and reconciliation during such activities, and members of the youth group talk to participants about the importance of keeping peace and solving disagreements amicably.

On several occasions, Nimo has invited poets and traditional elders to their gatherings to educate the youth about patriotism and how to peacefully co-exist with each other.

“We believe that if the youth of this country are given an opportunity in decision-making at regional and national levels, they can be true champions of peace,” says the high school graduate.

A mother of two children, Nimo continues to channel much of her energy towards the pursuit of peace, using public gatherings to ensure that youth embrace and participate in peace-building activities in the Lower Jubba region.

“We conduct awareness on health, peace and development. We also educate the youth on the disadvantages of joining extremist groups,” says Nimo, adding that her youth group has worked to link its constituency to the Jubbaland state government where their voices can be heard on policies that directly affect young Somalis.

“We have organized a range of workshops between the youth and law enforcement agencies in the region, firstly to ensure they build a relationship with each other, and to enable them to tackle security-related challenges from a common front,” notes the young activist.

Nimo believes that such workshops have helped build trust between the youth and local security officials. “The high level of coordination between the security agencies and the youth in Jubbaland is proof that young people can actively contribute to peace and prosperity in the country, if given a chance,” she says. “We have an arrangement with the youth to report to the police any suspicious activity they come across which could be a potential security threat.”

The Kismayo Youth Organization recently initiated a project to link jobless youth with employers, with an eye towards reducing migration from the region.

To date, the youth organisation has succeeded in finding jobs for 25 young women and men. She says their quest to find jobs for educated but unemployed youth was fuelled by the spiraling number of young Somalis risking their lives to seek better opportunities abroad.

Nimo hopes that her efforts to coordinate and bring together youth in her region will inspire others across the country. As the world marks International Youth Day on 12 August, she takes pride in empowering young people to create change through open safe spaces, which provide young people with a platform to express themselves, be heard and actively engage in leadership building activities in her region.

The United Nations’  New Urban Agenda (NUA) reiterates the need for public spaces for youth to enable them to interact with family and have constructive inter-generational dialogue. Youth need safe spaces where they can come together, engage in activities related to their diverse needs and interests, participate in decision-making processes and freely express themselves. Safe spaces ensure the dignity and safety of youth. 

When youth have safe spaces to engage, according to the NUA, they can effectively contribute to development, including peace and social cohesion.