Galkayo Education Center for Development Program (GECDP) established in 1999, has emerged as an instrumental Education, Peace building and Women’s rights center. A re-known and standard Civic Society organization in Puntland State of Somalia, is known for its strife for girl’s education and women’s rights in general. It has thrived well in a community of Clan conflicts and tensions of Al-Shabab practices. Founded by a global re – known Educationist, Peace and Human rights activist and a Nansen Refugee Award winner ( 2012), GECDP has made a mark in the lives of girls and women and the community at large.
Like in any other societies of Somalia, Gender based violence (GBV) and discrimination are very common practice. It is mostly fueled by the systematic patriarchal practices as reflected in the practiced religious, traditional and clan ideologies. Further the entrenched customary law framework –Xeer, mostly guides the legislative actions and systems and grants perpetrators impunity.
Therefore Somali girls and women suffer from GBV and practices of Female genital mutilation (FGM) and the health related consequences, rape, domestic violence, polygamy, wife inheritance, early and forced marriages among others.
The system promotes impunity for perpetrators.
However with the support of Coordination mechanisms –such as Somalia Protection cluster; GBV Working Group and the leading Ministry of Women Development and Family Affairs (MoWDAFA), survivor’s rights have improved though at a small pace. For example in 2014, a perpetrator in a reported rape case was given a 20 years sentence. An achievement in a context of high levels of violence against women and girls (VAWG), and as indicated by the UNFPA-supported GBVe Information Management System – that rape, sexual, physical, assault constituted 90% of all incidents reported in 2013 and 2014. It is a general trend that violates the rights of girls and women and it is very extreme for girls and women in the IDP communities.
In Galkayo, in Puntland, the work of GECPD, is potentially significant in the National and International agendas and efforts aimed at promoting the rights of Girls and Women and Gender Equality. It is clearly informed by the degree of GBV and discrimination in the society at large. Hence their efforts and contribution have been reflected in the International campaigns including 16 Days of Activism to end VAW/G, that we are part of, the International Female Genital Mutilation Campaigns, implementing the Somalia Compact – New Deal PSG’s among others. It has attracted international attention and support including funds and running exchange programs for girls; donations and funds.
Central to GECPD work is Education, a strategy that promotes gender equality and women’s empowerment and has enormously contributed to the National Education agenda of promoting girls education in particular. Though met with resistance at the initial stages, particularly from the traditional leaders and their male counterparts, in fear of losing power and control over girls and women, the organization has long transcended the barriers.
Particularly the notion of enrolling girls into the education system, and the advocacy against FGM raised suspicion. Males pre-conceived it as a way for making girls and women rebellious and abandon harmful practices of FGM, Early and forced marriages among others. As indicated by the founder in an interview with UNICEF staff, the school initiative was criticized for being too Westernized and the building was stoned, faeces were thrown at it and they faced threats.
Regardless of the barriers, GECPD has become an instrumental institution that has transcended the tradition of discrimination of girls and women in education. Community members including men have embraced the transition. The enrollment capacity has increased, and other centers have been opened to accommodate the education needs of girls and women. The enrollment of girls has increased to 40%, and considered the highest girls enrollment rate in the country where only 24.6 % girls attend school. In its role for gender integration, the school enrolls, boys for formal education, as a strategy to introduce them to gender teachings among other purposes, while boys of age are enrolled for vocational training in preparation for job opportunities.
In efforts to assist girls and women realise their rights, the institution implements tailor made programs that enable girls and women to re-claim their social – economic and political rights. Include formal education for girls; vocational training for the vulnerable girls and women; Human rights education, mainstreaming gender values in learning and education; Training women in leadership programs; advocacy on the elimination of female genital mutilation in all its forms, Safe homes for the vulnerable girls and women, HIV/AIDS awareness, Sports among others. Additionally, the center serves as a focal point for more than 20 women’s organizations in the community and benefit from the training services.
Somalia is generally a polarized nation. This is mostly fueled by the different political and clan ideologies. It is not very common for people from different regions to share same space. However GECDP, due to its role in peacebuilding broke cords in 2014 when a Volley ball tournament for young girls between Mogadishu (Federal) and Puntland State of Somalia was organized and played in Galkayo town. The activity aimed at creating more awareness on the issues of gender based violence and discrimination – celebrated during the 16 Days of Activism on VAW/G in 2014. The event which was also attended by a spectrum of the population including Government leaders, Clan leaders, Community members, Civil Society, UN Agencies among others, also highlighted the role of Girls/Women in the peacebuilding process as well as their demand for free space/society in the country and their capability of breaking the gender stereotypes in sports in general.
Managing Editor's Note: Today, we open the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence Campaign. The central theme to this year's campaign is education. Words in the Bucket chose to find positive stories to praise those working in this difficult and sensitive sector . There is no better way that to open with a successful story of education combatting GBV and women's rights in a difficult place like Somalia.