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GROUND TRUTHS: LOCAL HUMANITARIANS IN CONFLICT

Local actors are increasingly recognised as a core part of humanitarian response – in 2014, four out of five humanitarian organisations operating globally were national organisations. From the Greek volunteers in Lesvos to organisations in Syria and South Sudan, local organisations and individuals work within and outside of the humanitarian system to assist the most vulnerable.

However, attacks on aid workers in conflict countries are on the rise, and national humanitarians continue to pay the highest price. Since 2015, twelve times more national than international aid workers have been killed. Often working in places where international organisations lack access, and without the security protection and evacuation options afforded to their international counterparts, national humanitarians take on a significant degree of risk to carry out their work.

How do local humanitarians navigate the challenges of humanitarian and protection work while dealing with risk and insecurity in their own countries? Ahead of World Humanitarian Day and the commemoration of humanitarian aid workers at Westminster Abbey, this event will bring together panellists working with national organisations in Syria, Somalia and elsewhere to answer this question, and share their perspectives and experiences.

FROM PEACE IN THE HOME TO PEACE IN THE WORLD: MAKE EDUCATION SAFE FOR ALL!

SSWC participated in marking the 24th year of "16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence Campaign" in Mogadishu Somalia. Celebrating with different groups i.e. women group, schoolgirls, local authorities etc. on a colourful event. This year (2015) focused specifically on the relationship between militarism and the right to education in situations of violent conflict, in relative peace, and variety of education settings, while continuing to make the links with militarism, as an encompassing patriarchal system of discrimination and inequality based on our relationships to power.

Discussions on the event were around the significance of education as fundamental human right recognized in Article 26 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and upheld in various international and regional human rights conventions and treaties. Nonetheless, the right to education is subject to political, economic, and social shifts and upheavals, leaving certain groups (especially women, girls, and people with disabilities.

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PROVISION OF DIGNITY KITS AND SOLAR LAMPS.

The distribution of dignity kits and solar lamps will complement the GBV protection and response objective. SSWC aims to improve the dignity and psychosocial wellbeing of women and girls beneficiaries through the provision of dignity supplies and solar lamps to survivors of GBV. Dignity supplies was provided to survivors based on their own statement of need, the provision of solar lamps to vulnerable population will reduce SGBV risks in the evening, particularly when going to latrines and local shops. SSWC prepared the dignity kit and WARDI in Hiraan Region, OSPAD in Lower Shebelle region and ARD in Middle Shebelle did the distribution to beneficiaries.


TRADITIONAL LIVELIHOOD SKILLS TRAINING

Social economic support to young women by enabling their participation in small scale businesses that will promote traditional art and craft: The project recruited and support 35 young women by enabling them to start Income Generating Activities (IGA) through the selling of traditional made items e.g. basket, beads, and tie and die etc that will improve their household income. The project mainly enhances the entrepreneurial capacity of the beneficiaries through appropriate business skills trainings including attachment to successful women entrepreneurs. The beneficiaries who will have shown burning enthusiasm to start and sustain IGA will be given a small capital to start their businesses. The intervention will increase income of the selected women and also promote the traditionally made items, thus providing financial leverage that is necessary for economic empowerment of women in on order to overcome gender-based inequality in resource ownership.

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TRANSFORMING SOCIO-CULTURAL NORMS:

The causes of gender-basedviolence are rooted in socio-cultural norms of gender inequality anddiscrimination. Preventing gender-based violence thusrequires changes in gender relations within the community - that is, thesocially prescribed roles, responsibilities, expectations, limitations, opportunities and privileges assigned to persons in the community based on their sex, the project prevention activities that target socio-cultural norms seek to influence changes in knowledge, attitudes, and behavior. Because they have been displaced and their daily routines disrupted, most IDPs have already begun to experience changes in traditional gender roles. The project will support positive transformations ingender relations within the community over the long-term. Preventiveactions can also contribute to ending harmful traditional practices, such as female genital mutilation. Building the community capacity on sexual and gender based violence” will consolidate and build upon SSWC achievements to date and respond to changing needs on the ground.


COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN

Commission on the Status of Women

The fifty-ninth session of the Commission on the Status of Women will take place at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 9 to 20 March 2015. Representatives of Member States, UN entities, and ECOSOC-accredited non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from all regions of the world attend the session.

Themes:

The main focus of the session will be on the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, including current challenges that affect its implementation and the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women. The Commission will undertake a review of progress made in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, 20 years after its adoption at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. The review (Beijing+20) will also include the outcomes of the 23rd special session of the General Assembly, the first five-year assessment conducted after the adoption of the Platform for Action, which highlighted further actions and initiatives.

The session will also address opportunities for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women in the post-2015 development agenda.


INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY 2015 THEME: MAKE IT HAPPEN

SSWC joins this year's celebrations of International Women's Day on 8 March 2015

SSWC joins this year's celebrations of International Women's Day on 8 March 2015 with vulnerable women, girls and civil society in Somalia. The theme of this year’s international women day “Make It Happen” encouraging effective action for advancing and recognizing women.

Vulnerable women and girl shared their achievement obtained after receiving vocational technical skills training which in turn allowed their families to get source of income, children getting education and being aware of women rights.

SSWC joins the journey of these women to reflect on the progress made and celebrate the courage and determination towards contributing positively in the community and in Somalia.

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"You cannot have sustainable peace without women"

Mary Robinson, Asha Haji Elmi and Sanam Naraghi Anderlini

On 5 November, four members of The Elders joined four women peace and gender experts in front of a packed audience at The Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia, and online, to discuss how to empower women in peacebuilding.

Jimmy Carter started off the first panel debate by calling for women's equality in "every part of life", highlighting that in 500 Fortune companies, only 23 of the CEOs are women. He added that women occupy only 23 per cent of political positions worldwide - 15 per cent in the USA. Gender and conflict expert Sanam Naraghi Anderlini highlighted the lack of consultation and representation of women in present conflicts, asking:

"How come we never get to hear from Syrian women when we talk about bringing peace to Syria?"

When asked how to amplify the voice of women, Ms Anderlini joined Mary Robinson in urging women to use social media. Mrs Robinson argued that it is important to "connect women at the grassroots with decision-makers at every level of civil society."

When asked how to empower women to be active peace advocates, not to be merely seen as tokens, Jimmy Carter replied that a strong, eloquent and sincere woman can influence an entire room.

To round off the debate, Somali peace activist Asha Haji Elmi spoke of the importance of peacebuilders in representing "the voice for the silent majority, primarily women and children," and the dangers of the role:

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The Global Summit to End Sexual Violence

The Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict took place at ExCel London on 10 - 13 June 2014. Foreign Secretary William Hague will co-chair the summit with Angelina Jolie, Special Envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The Tailoring training program provided survivors with vocational skills required to establish their own businesses and participate in the economic rebuilding of Somalia. During the training women learned to take measurements, cut patterns, stitch clothing, embroidery and make sheets. The product was showcased at the Market place ExCel London.(Global Summit).


Asha Hagi Elmi (Somalia)

"...for continuing to lead at great personal risk the female participation in the peace and reconciliation process in her war-ravaged country."

Asha Hagi has dedicated her life to gaining a better and more peaceful future for her war-torn country, Somalia. At great personal risk, she has fought for women to have a voice in the decisions that affect them. She has mobilized women in the cause of peace across clan and political divides and continues to play a vital role in mediating across warring clans in the on-going peace process. Women in Somalia are in a much stronger position today because of her courage, persistence and compassion.

Born in 1962, Asha Hagi graduated in economics from Somalia National University and holds a Master's degree in business administration from the US International University in Africa.

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International Womens Day

The theme of this year's International Women's Day is 'inspiring change'. The British Embassy Mogadishu works with a variety of inspirational women in Somalia whose drive and passion is truly remarkable. One of these is 30 year-old Halima Ali Adan. She is the Gender Based Violence (GBV) coordinator at Save Somali Women and Children (SSWC).

Partners like Halima are delivering front line services in dangerous and challenging conditions, often risking their own safety to do so. "What motivates me most to continue with my work is seeing a smile on the faces of the vulnerable people we serve, empowering them by meeting their priority needs, it is just a blessing" smiles Halima.

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WHD Dignity

Menstruation is not a word commonly associated with the humanitarian agenda, nor is it a subject many Somalis would be comfortable discussing in public. But Somali aid worker Amina Hagi Elmi is a tireless advocate for hundreds of thousands of displaced Somalia women, ensuring that they have access to sanitary cloths and basic hygiene when they menstruate.

"Women's needs, including the need for dignity and respect, do not disappear in the face of conflict, drought and other adversity," says Amina.

"When everything else grinds to a halt, including basic services like water, health and food supplies, the menstrual cycle continues, oblivious of war or displacement," she says, adding that women facing such life-threatening crises are frequently caught off-guard with no access to sanitary and protective items.

Affectionately known as Mama Amina, her commitment to providing "dignity kits" to displaced women was triggered by her own experience. When civil war broke out in Somalia in 1991, her family fled to Balcad, 35 kms north-east of their home in Mogadishu. About 10 days later, her period started.

"I could not stand up for fear of embarrassment. But I collected myself, used an extra scarf I had and got on with the chores," she says. She was responsible for caring for her family and could not allow menstruation to be an impediment.

For Amina, that day was a turning point that led her to devote herself to serving displaced people, particularly women and children. In 1992, she founded the non-governmental organization Save Somali Women and Children (SSWC) to work on behalf of vulnerable displaced women and children, and to campaign for the provision of dignity kits. The kits include washable sanitary cloths, underwear, dresses, shawls, petticoats, head scarves and soap. These items fulfil basic hygiene needs and prevent potential health hazards for women and young girls. Other women's organizations also took up the call.

Amina's campaign has paid off. In 2011, the Shelter Cluster, which helps displaced people with temporary shelter and essential household items, started to distribute the kits as part of its emergency assistance package.

Amina helps Somalis to help other Somalis. "I mobilize wealthy people in Mogadishu to donate to the displaced," she says. She also lobbies the United Nations and international NGOs for funding. I am particularly grateful to the Common Humanitarian Fund, which provides funds through the Shelter Cluster."

With support from the Common Humanitarian Fund's emergency reserve fund, SSWC has provided shelter and non-food items, including the dignity kit, to 62,000 displaced people in Banadir (Mogadishu) and Lower Shabelle regions since 2011. SSWC staff also distribute food and provide water, sanitation services and shelter in other parts of southern Somalia.

Mama Amina is a pillar of hope to thousands of women and children in the Zona-K settlements in Mogadishu's Hodan district. To mark World Humanitarian Day, she distributed blankets, soap and food to 100 families.

"Mama Amina is like a mother to all of us, and even when she cannot help us she listens to our problems," said Saido Ahmed, an IDP in Mogadishu. "I received a dignity kit from her and it has been very helpful."

Amina says she hopes that on World Humanitarian Day, 19 August, people will be moved to help each other, both in Somalia and beyond.

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