Empowering Women on the Frontlines of the Climate Crisis in Somalia
In the arid lands of Somalia, where recurring droughts, famines, and floods afflict the population, women and girls in particular bear the brunt of climate-induced crises. Yet, despite Somalia's dual challenges of climate crises and armed conflict, a transformative initiative is reshaping lives, offering alternative livelihood opportunities, and bolstering resilience among the most vulnerable. The Women’s Leadership, Empowerment, Access, and Protection of Women and Girls in Crisis (LEAP) Programme, generously supported by the Government of Japan, offers a beacon of hope in a context where women and girls face acute vulnerabilities.
As the third phase of the LEAP Programme unfolds, its focus extends to enhancing the protection and resilience of 9,200 women and girls directly, with an additional 10,000 individuals benefitting indirectly across key districts including Kismayo, Banadir, Baidoa, and Garowe. The urgent need for such interventions became starkly evident during the devastating El Niño heavy rains and floods of October and November 2023, which wreaked havoc nationwide, displacing 899,000 individuals and claiming 118 lives.
The LEAP programme addresses not only women and girls' specific needs, but also catalyzes awareness within communities and stakeholders on the broader imperative of gender-responsive humanitarian action.
At the forefront of this endeavour are civil society organizations (CSOs), most notably women-led organizations (WLOs), that serve as the first responders in delivering essential support to crisis-affected women and girls. Among these champions is the NGO, Nomadic Assistance for Peace and Development (NAPAD), a steadfast partner of UN Women Somalia. Through strategic collaboration, UN Women provides vital training, mentoring and coordination to empower NAPAD, enabling them to actively engage in the humanitarian landscape and amplify their impact, particularly in addressing gender-based violence (GBV).
For women like Farhia and Rahma, beneficiaries of NAPAD's skill-building initiatives, the LEAP Programme offers not just livelihood opportunities, but a pathway to empowerment and self-sufficiency. Farhia, now adept in henna application, envisions establishing her own salon, while Rahma dreams of providing for her family and expanding her horizons with her tailoring skills.
Sharing about the impact of her transformation, Farhia says, “Previously, I lacked any specific skills and was simply a house girl with no particular activities. But now, I’m different person. I have acquired the skill of doing henna, allowing me to earn a living and even train others in the art. In the future, I aspire to establish and manage a new salon that will generate employment opportunities for myself and others who have studied henna application.”
Rahma, echoing Farhia’s sentiments, expresses gratitude, “Now that I have newly gained skills, I want to make a living out of it and provide for my family. Despite facing obstacles such as space and time limitations, we have effectively acquired new skills. I’m appealing to (UN Women) to extend the programme for us so that many women who are at home can also get such an opportunity.”
Through comprehensive capacity-building initiatives spanning trainings and workshops, UN Women and NAPAD empower women, youth, and men to challenge prevailing norms that perpetuate violence against women and girls (VAWG) and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). These efforts, conducted across key districts like Kismayo, Baidoa, Garowe, and Benadir, equip participants with vital knowledge on international conventions, national laws, and protocols related to VAWG and SGBV.
One such training, held in Mogadishu, brought together CSOs and WLOs, fostering a deeper understanding of GBV response mechanisms and reinforcing the importance of collective action in addressing gender disparities. Maria Abdulhalim Mohamed, a project officer with NAPAD, lauded the initiative, citing its instrumental role in enhancing their capacity to support survivors of GBV and advocate for gender equality, “Throughout the three days of the training, I have gained a lot of knowledge including gender equality in humanitarian action, UN humanitarian coordination architecture clusters, approach of UN Women global strategies, PSEA, cyberbullying, and collective protection among others. I will also share the information and training materials with my colleagues for them to benefit from it. I work closely with young girls and survivors of gender-based violence, and the information I learned from the training improved my capacity to support and empower women and girls.”
Despite the challenges, such as the unpredictability of climate events, the LEAP Programme demonstrates resilience through agile planning and proactive measures. Regular coordination meetings and capacity-building sessions ensure continuity.
The unwavering support of the Government of Japan underscores the significance of international cooperation in addressing the disproportionate impact of climate crises on vulnerable populations. Through initiatives like LEAP, opportunities for women's economic empowerment are expanded, harmful social norms that hinder financial inclusion are challenged, and avenues for skill development and entrepreneurship are created.
The LEAP Programme is a testament to the power of collective action in building resilience and empowering women on the frontlines of the complex interplay of climate-induced challenges and conflict in Somalia, illuminating a path towards a more inclusive and resilient future for all.