11 May 2013

Somalia: The First Lady On Violence Against Women "Without Institutions or Rights Here Are the Origins"

Photo: FAO Somalia
Displaced Somali families (file photo).

Asha Haji Elmi was born in Somalia in 1962 where she graduated from the Somali National University in Mogadishu. She e also holds a Master's degree in business administration from the International University of the United States. And 'the wife of Abdi Farah Shirdon, current Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Somalia in August 2012 and is herself Somali Federal Member of Parliament, one of the few MPs of the transition period (2004-2009) to be re-elected. She'was the founder of the Association for the salvation of Women and Children (SSWC) in 1992, at the height of the civil war, and in 2000 promoted the Sixth Clan Association, movement for the promotion of Somali women in the political life of the country. It has also committed to the banning of female genital mutilation, a practice widespread in Somalia. She is currently working in Somalia against sexual violence against women and held a discussion on the topic during the London conference on Somalia in which, for Italy, was attended by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Emma Bonino.

What was the most difficult to make the civil rights activist in Somalia at the time of the warlords?

It was not easy for anyone to live under the warlords in Mogadishu. The city was divided between the clan and it was hard to even move. From one area to another, even more difficult was the struggle for the affirmation of civil rights in those conditions, but we never gave up pursuing what we believed and we still believe.

How many women are raped in Somalia?

It 'an unknown number, they lack reliable statistics, but it's still an impressive number.

Who are the men who rape women in Somalia? They are men in uniform?

The violence has deep roots in the civil war which lasted twenty-two. With the collapse of the institutions has fallen in two decades without rules or rights.

What are the means to combat violence against women as a weapon of war?

We have launched a campaign without precedent. We started from the most prominent figures in society, from the mosques. We have involved civil society to 360 degrees. Before there was total silence

it was a taboo. The raped women were hiding. Instead we have involved first of all men, the religious, the notables to make them aware of the seriousness of the problem and we have made it clear to the girls who have no guilt and no shame. Do not be ashamed to report because the shame falls on their rapists. Currently we are pushing even more. We have promoted the creation of songs against violence against women and there is even a ringtone for mobile phones that plays one of these music.

What do they need women raped?

They need care, social work, and psychological support. Those who remain single and unmarried mothers must also have an economic subsidy.

What do you ask the international community and what you got from the London Conference on Somalia?

First of all, we turned to the Somalis. Somalis are facing their own problems first, and also that of violence against women. So far we have obtained the help of the local community that has given us the funds to finance the campaign to raise awareness that we are pursuing. The response was amazing and people have shown great interest and appreciation for giving us the problem with the consent and support economic strength to continue. Ask the international community to strengthen the institutions, security, justice and the construction of a state that gives the ability to protect the most vulnerable. Without these conditions will not be possible to state with effective human rights and the people who commit these crimes go unpunished.

Is she wants to make an appeal to Italian institutions?

Italy was close to Somalia during the civil war. The friendship between the two peoples is indelible and I'm sure that will grow much more, now that Somalia has found that unity of purpose and try to get out of the abyss into which it had fallen. Extremely encouraging for the solution of the problems of whose commitment to human rights is known around the world. Though I have already made to the Italian authority appeal to continue to support Somalia in its efforts for peace and reconstruction. But it is you that I appeal especially to the struggle for women's rights which will increasingly take a central position in the international debate. Without respect for women and their body every other battle for human rights will be fading out.

What is your wish for the future?

That as soon as may be held in Mogadishu, an international pacification of Somalia at the Italian Foreign Ministry there is now Emma Bonino, whose history and reconstruction. But it is you that I appeal especially to the struggle for women's rights will increasingly take a central position in the international debate. Without respect for women and their body every other battle for human rights fades.

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