The Somali government and African Union have wrapped up a two-day training course for women on how to protect themselves from rapists. The United Nations says it registered 1,700 cases of rape in Somalia last year.
This is the first training to be held in Mogadishu as the government struggles to protect women from rapists in towns and camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs). According to the organizers, the training focused on 20 women working with women’s organizations and displaced persons camps in central Somalia.
Human rights organizations have accused Somali government soldiers and militia groups of committing widespread abuses, including rape.
African Union Mission for Somalia Gender Officer Mane Ahmed said the training is important for women as they try to find a solution to sexual violence. She said the training will make men think twice before assaulting a woman sexually, because the project aims to train all women in the country.
“We also need to think of security of women in Mogadishu and in all other regions and to give them skills to defend themselves with some basic skills, and also giving them confidence they will be able to defend themselves, they will be able to defend their sisters. And men will also know that they cannot now just try to rape or attack a woman,” she explained.
The training course teaches women how to be alert and how to defend themselves when attacked, through methods such as martial arts kicking or a punch to the groin.
Ahmed noted that women’s groups asked for assistance to protect themselves because there was such a problem with sexual violence, and they wanted to be able to protect themselves.
“They were like, ‘If you cannot have guns, if you cannot have weapons, please give us the skills to defend ourselves,’ so this is coming from them. They believe in themselves, they believe that if they know how to defend themselves they will be able to secure their family, and to secure their environment and to remain safe.”
The organizers expect the 20 women to go back to their organizations and IDP camps to pass on the lessons and training as an important step to protect women from sexual attacks.