Human Rights Defender of the Month: Fadwo Hassan Jimale

Women in Somalia are not supposed to be ‘loud.’ Historically, conservative religious traditions combined with a resilient patriarchal system ensured that women in the coastal nation remain veiled and meek, always in the shadow of their husbands.

Not so for Fadwo Hassan Jimale, Somalia’s crusading human rights defender. As a ranking member of Somalia’s Women Human Rights Defenders Coalition, Fadwo and her colleagues host regular capacity building sessions for current and emerging women human rights defenders (WHRDs).

 

"Our mission is to empower them to resist gender stereotypes that continue to hold them back, and to pushback against gender-based violence that is enabled and encouraged by a patriarchal culture."

Fadwo says that women in Somalia face several challenges typical of countries emerging from conflict, from the relegation of women to the margins of society, to gender-specific violence, systematic exclusion, marginalisation, under-recognition. Combined, Fadwo argues, these have held Somali women back, rendering them passive victims of the status quo. It is this unfair system that her and her colleagues have resolved to fight.

 

“We’re particularly reaching out to the leadership – from the clan leaders to the leaders of the national government. I believe the government has the primary responsibility to ensure an enabling environment for all human rights defenders and to protect them from threats and attacks, in line with its international obligations. So, we’re engaging with the clan leaders to stop the injustices against women at the grassroots, and we’re engaging with the Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development at the macro level to reform overall policy towards women at the national level,”

As a result of their sustained advocacy, Somalia’s Parliament has since passed legislation requiring that women take up at least 30% of leadership positions at all administrative levels, as a critical step towards achieving gender-equity. Fadwo says their challenge now is to build a large network of empowered WHRDs across the country to ensure that such gains are not only preserved, but also expanded.

In particular, she says, they are advocating to ensure that the Somali National Gender Policy currently being developed includes a National Action Plan for the implementation of Resolution 1325 on the role of women in conflict management, conflict resolution, and sustainable peace, a Gender-Based Violence policy, and a gender mainstreaming and institutional capacity development program. She also wants that the policy includes an economic empowerment policy focusing on empowering the most vulnerable, including women and girls, especially those in internally displaced people’s camps.

Additionally, she calls upon the Somali Government to ratify the UN Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol).

“I desire to see a world where women and girls are free and safe to enjoy their full rights, challenge practices and norms that continually disenfranchise them, apply for and get granted gainful employment, in order to improve their livelihoods, their households as well as their entire communities,” she says.

See more HRDs of the Month

Human Rights Defender of the month: Alex Njenga John

Alex Njenga has always believed in egalitarianism both as a principle and as a tool for justice. As a result, he has always been suspicious of, and at times hostile to social prejudices that treat some people as “more equal than others,” – to use a line from George Orwell’s famed political fable, Animal Farm.

Some of the experiences that have shaped his social and political outlook have been personal. As an adolescent in Kenya’s Uasin Gishu County, Alex was stigmatised and denied healthcare after he identified himself as belonging to Kenya’s sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) community.

Human Rights Defender of the month: Abacha Ahmed Ibrahim

Abacha Ahmed Ibrahim is one of his country’s leading advocates for the rights of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs).

Born 34 years ago into a family of Eight, in Kajokeji County, East of Juba, the Capital of South Sudan, Abacha ’s passion for human rights was born out of grim personal experience. At birth, he was immediately neglected by his father on discovering that the little infant was visually impaired.

“My own father denied me access to education because he considered my disability a kind of misfortune brought to him by my mother,” he says.

Human Rights Defender of the month: Fadia Khalaf

Fadia Khalaf was not meant to be an activist. By her own admission, she was born into a conservative Muslim family – the first of six siblings. In Saudi Arabia where she was born and raised, the ruling ideology in the Kingdom was wahabbism – a puritanical version of Islam in which women are strictly expected to stay in the background and not play any public role. Yet even in that conservative setting, she managed to nurture a political consciousness:

“I think reading at young age helped build my awareness on concepts like justice and rights in general. I was exposed to concepts around human freedom, and that nurtured the rebel in me,” she says.

Human Rights Defender of the month: Mugisha Jelousy

As the rest of Uganda readies itself to finally get its oil out of the ground with the conclusion of the Final Investment Decision (FID), Mugisha Jealousy, 50, is one of those following the events with a mournful resignation.

A resident of Kasenyi village, Nile Parish in Buliisa district, Mugisha is one of those affected by the Tilenga project, a multipronged project by Total E&P. The project involves reservation and development of land in districts of Buliisa and Nwoya for oil exploration, setting up of a crude oil processing plant and related infrastructure to support Uganda’s oil production activities.

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Anny Kapenga

As a young student, Anny Kapenga used to cringe at the cult-like worship of Mobutu Sese Seko, the then Zaire’s President. By then, in the early 1990s, Zaire was still under one party rule, and calls were increasing for Mobutu to open political space to allow other parties to operate. In the meantime, however, all Zairians were expected to show affection for Mobutu wherever they gathered in public.

Students across Zaire’s schools were required to sing and dance adoringly before his (Mobutu)’s portrait every morning before they went to class, and all school scholastic materials were emblemed with his portrait. A young Anny never really appreciated the obsession:

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Fadwo Hassan Jimale

Women in Somalia are not supposed to be ‘loud.’ Historically, conservative religious traditions combined with a resilient patriarchal system ensured that women in the coastal nation remain veiled and meek, always in the shadow of their husbands.

Not so for Fadwo Hassan Jimale, Somalia’s crusading human rights defender. As a ranking member of Somalia’s Women Human Rights Defenders Coalition, Fadwo and her colleagues host regular capacity building sessions for current and emerging women human rights defenders (WHRDs).

Human Rights Defender of the Month: Oliver Rubama

As a lone girl in a traditionally patriarchal & heteronormative Muslim family in Tanzania, Oliver Rubama grew up with so much pressure to conform. She was expected to conform to socially expected patterns of female behavior and dress, and to aspire to get married to a man approved by her family.

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