Somali woman overcomes sexual abuse and fights to end sexual violence in the country
Khadijo Maadey (not her real name), 28, has suffered physically and psychologically after being brutally raped at an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp, 13 kilometers from Mogadishu.
Brutal gang rape and physical assault are only a few of the perils of victims of sexual violence in times of conflict. Last year in Somalia, 94% of the reported cases of sexual violence survivors were females and 74% of them came from IDP communities.
Two years ago, Maadey had sought refuge at the Bisiqley camp, after fleeing her home in Qoryoley, 120 km from Mogadishu, during a fierce battle between Al-Shabaab and joint troops of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the Somali National Army. However, little did she know that in February this year what happened would cause a permanent scar in her life: two armed men stormed her shack in the middle of the night and raped her in front of her children.
“With a pistol and a kitchen knife they entered my house which has no door. Both of them raped me. My eldest son who is 10 years wailed but one of the men gagged him. They threatened to shoot me if I refused to cooperate,” she narrated tearfully.
Emotionally scarred by the attack, Maadey finally gathered courage and sought help from HINNA, a local non-governmental organization supported by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), which helps vulnerable women overcome their experiences. Maadey says she will be forever grateful to HINNA who rushed her to hospital for treatment and paid for her hospital bills.
The 28-year-old maintains she made the right decision to first seek help from HINNA before reporting the matter to the police. “I never knew my attackers and as such it was useless for me to report to the police,” Maadey, who earns a living by doing odd jobs in the city, explained.
On 19th June, Maadey joined fellow citizens, in Mogadishu, to commemorate the first International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict in an event held at the HINNA headquarters.
“Though the pain eventually went away, thoughts of that dreaded night continue to linger in my mind. At times I feel defeated and hopeless. I have tried to overcome the incident but the thoughts just keep coming back. We must continue fighting this crime,” she observed.
If the experience alone wasn’t enough, Maadey had to endure stigmatization from her community members in the wake of her assault. “There is the issue of being shamed and stigmatized. I know I will have to deal with it for the rest of my life,” Maadey said, adding that she now lives in constant fear that her molesters may strike again.
The need to end sexual violence is greater than ever and more and efforts are in place through a combination of actions undertaken by the Federal Government of Somalia, the United Nations, international and local non-governmental organizations and the donor community. These joint efforts have resulted in tangible achievements through the implementation of the National Action Plan on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict in Somalia, which established a Steering Committee, co-chaired by the Ministry of Women, Human Rights and Development and UNSOM. HINNA is also part of the organizations of the committee whom play a key role in the Implementation of National Action Plan on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict.