Somalia Drought Puts Women and Girls at Higher Risk of Violence

As the drought in Somalia intensifies, women and girls are facing a devastating increase in incidents of gender-based violence. On International Day for Rural Women, CARE International is warning of a funding shortfall for the protection of women and girls.  
Women have to walk farther to access water and basic services leaving them vulnerable to sexual violence. More girls are dropping out of school putting them at risk of early marriages. Parents who can no longer afford to pay school fees are resorting to prioritising the boy child over the girl. 
Iman Abdullahi, CARE International Country Director Said: “The erosion of women’s and girl’s rights is undermining the progress made in recent years. Reports from those displaced by drought indicate a 200% rise in GBV cases, particularly intimate partner violence and rape, compared to the same period in 2021. Early marriage of girls rose by 3% between October 2021 and March 2022. This is linked to the greater risks of harmful traditional practices, such as Female Genital Mutilation. This calls for an increase in support for the protection sector, especially on this International Day for Rural Women.” 
Protection is one of the least funded humanitarian clusters with only 11.4% of the target met. With $127.7 million required, only $14.5 million has been allocated. The key protection concern is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). During the COVID-19 pandemic, it was noted that there was an increase in FGM as girls were away from school. FGM increases the risk of early marriages.  
As the drought exacerbates, many girls are dropping out of school to support their parents to search for food. Aged just 12, Susan had to drop out to help her parents: “I used to cook for the family, sometimes I would take care of the animals and collect firewood. While we were there, life became even harder as we lost all our livestock.”  
Millions of people have been displaced resulting in high levels of family separation. As a result, women and girls at greater risk from Gender-Based Violence (GBV). With families struggling to cope with the current drought situation, women are taking on more responsibilities as female-headed households increase.  
Habiba is among the thousands of Somali women who have faced emotional and psychological abuse. As a divorced mother and sole breadwinner of nine children, Habiba encountered stigmatisation at the IDP camp she fled to due to her marital status and as a result was ostracised. “The clan fights and destruction of my life left me very scared. I lost all my belongings, and even though I settled at this camp finding food and providing for my family remained very difficult. I was forced to go out and beg for food.” 
Currently, CARE is working in IDP camps to offer psychosocial support to affected women and girls, as well as health and education support

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