Leveraging the Strength of Women in Peacebuilding and Promoting Gender Sensitivity in The National Programme on Disengaged Combatants

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By Lucky Omaar

Over the recent past, Somalia has made significant advances in the fight against violent extremism, including the extension of state authority in main towns across Somalia. However, armed groups continue to fuel conflict and create instability in large areas, posing an immediate threat to peaceful development in Somalia. As the Government of Somalia and the International Community scale up their engagement with communities to promote peace and stability across the state, the role of Somali women is vital in creating the necessary conditions to nurture reconciliation and to achieving the desired development and sustainability goals. To empower the agency of women, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Somalia is supporting the UN Security Council Resolution (SCR) 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security by engaging women and women led civil society organizations (CSO) in peace processes and in the prevention of violent extremism.

In 2019, with catalytic funding from the United Nations Peace Building Fund (PBF), IOM implemented the innovative project “Leveraging the Strength of Women in Peacebuilding and Promoting Gender Sensitivity in The National Programme on Disengaged Combatants”. Through this project, IOM engaged local women networks and organizations to support 150 women who made the risky decision to disengage from the extremist group al-Shabaab (AS), providing gender-sensitive services to facilitate rehabilitation and sustainable social and economic reintegration. The project was part of Federal Government of Somalia’s (FGS) National Programme for the Treatment and Handling of Disengaged Combatants, which provides a pathway and incentive for individuals to disassociate with AS.

This project marked Somalia and East Africa’s first concrete and methodological engagement to support the rehabilitation and reintegration of women who were associated with the violent extremist group AS. The project created opportunities for women who left the extremist group to explore a new life and wished to become active and productive members of their communities. In addition to supporting the SCR 1325, the project actively contributed to strengthening governance structures in Somalia and simultaneously promoted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). By addressing critical gaps in social and economic support, while specifically targeting the needs of women, this project lined with SDG 5 — Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, and SDG 10 — Reduce inequality within and among countries. IOM adopted a multi-angled approach when engaging women, ensuring their wellbeing and empowering them to be active members of their communities and become agents of change. IOM also focused on promoting their capacity for economic resilience, therefore contributing to SDG 8 — Decent Work and Economic Growth. The project contributed to the SDG 16, Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, Somalia Peacebuilding Priority Plan and the National Strategy and Action Plan for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism, which led to an increase in defections from violent extremist groups.

The transformative impact of the project and its human-centric dimension evoked interest from international stakeholders, which enabled IOM to continue the provision of critical support to women formerly associated with AS. Currently, IOM manages 2 Women’s Transitional Rehabilitation Centres in Somalia and continues to work with 3 women’s Civil Society Organizations for continuous community-based social reintegration.

It was enriching to witness the incredible journey of the Somali women who participated in activities and went through this transformative process, and became more confident, more socially and economically stable and filled with determination to contribute to their communities with new knowledge and skills.

IOM is honoured to collaborate with stakeholders to promote social cohesion, protect and empower women individually and collectively, and encourage women’s participation in peace and security processes.

Views expressed in this publication are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Paris Peace Forum.

Lucky Omaar works with the International Organization for Migration in Somalia in the role of Project Manager for the Women Peace and Security project, which provides gender-responsive rehabilitation and reintegration services to women who disengage from violent extremist groups and strive to become part of peace and recovery efforts. Previously, Lucky worked as a Strategic Communication and Media Officer for IOM’s Somalia Stabilization Initiative and has an extensive experience as a development consultant in Somalia. Her professional experience includes community-based research, economic sector development, and serving as the Communications and
Public Relations Advisor to the Prime Minister of Somalia in 2014. Lucky’s interests include exploring issues of access and development as they relate to vulnerable populations, gender equity, and the impact of conflict on education. Lucky is a Fulbright Scholar and holds a Master’s degree in Education, Gender and International Development from the Institute of Education, University College London.

Contribution signed by Richard Danziger, Chief of Mission, IOM Somalia

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