Engaging Somali Men and Boys to Prevent Violence Against Women

Adow is a 56-year-old Somali man living with his family in Melkadida refugee camp, Ethiopia. As the head of a family of 16 people including his children and cousins, Adow is an important figure within his community. Before he left Somalia and first met with International Medical Corps in Melkadida camp, Adow did not believe that women have equal rights as men and that Gender Based Violence (GBV) was an inevitable part of relationships between men and women.

In the Melkadida and Kobe refugee camps, International Medical Corps is working with men and boys in order to help them become agents of change in preventing GBV rather than perpetrators of violence. This approach has been shown to be more effective than only working with women. International Medical Corps trained community mobilizers are providing six month long training and mentoring for 90 men and boys in both camps, which includes information on GBV, women’s rights, and communication skills to help them engage their peers.

Adow was sitting at his home in the camp when the International Medical Corps’ community mobilizers came to his house and asked to speak with him and other neighbors. Reluctantly, he accepted the invitation and participated alongside his neighbors. The group of men learned about GBV and its negative consequences on women, children, and the community.

Today, Adow considers his first awareness session on sexual violence as a turning point in his life,

“I want my daughters to be protected. I want them to grow safe. I want them to become great and respectful women. I will never allow any man to harm them now.”

Adow has also joined other men to form the men and boys’ action group against GBV, which will spread messages about preventing GBV throughout the Somali community in Melkadida and Kobe refugee camps. These groups will be able to reach far more men, women, and young people than International Medical Corps’ community mobilizers would be able to achieve on their own.

“I have learned about the problem of GBV, its causes and consequences,” says Adow. “I will teach my friends also to learn about GBV so that they can help to protect their wives and daughters.”

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