COVID-19 Laws affect the Fight to End FGM in Mogadishu, Somalia

COVID-19 Laws affect the Fight to End FGM in Mogadishu, Somalia

By Ifrah Ahmed

Ifrah Ahmed anti-FGM activist reports the current struggles with fighting FGM and dealing with local laws that are in place to keep the public safe from COVID-19. 

Somalia bans public gatherings as virus cases rise. The government closed all schools and universities for four weeks and madrasas and mosques are told to maintain social distancing as COVID-19 infections rise in the Horn of Africa nation.

After a week, Mogadishu municipality has announced the penalty that anyone in the capital who fails to abide by the order to wearing face masks in public will be fined 5$. In Mogadishu, each face mask costs $0.5, a price that everyone can’t afford to pay since the low-income population at large live less than a dollar per day.

Following that decision, the media graduate visited two camps in Mogadishu to observe the lives of women and girls and how they have copied new measures. When they expressed concern about the fine.

We distributed 2,000 face masks and 2,000 soaps for IDPs in the camps. We also gave them a short training about how to apply social distancing in the camp to curb the virus. 

Kalsan TV and Goobjoog TV which have an audience of over 10 million broadcasted the event of the distribution of the face masks and soap in the capital.

Impact and success 

It has had a huge impact on the rising FGM awareness campaign during this difficult time of the pandemic. The government’s decisions also affect vulnerable people. We had the opportunity of giving them a strong awareness of FGM/C through the event of the distribution since the school closures in the country lead to a rise in FGM.

Gatekeeper Mumin, said that they were considering COVID-19 as normal before the GMC team arrived at the camp. She noted that a few girls were circumcised weeks ago in the camp. We will never forget the help by GMC because today we need it, we were being worried about the fine decision announced by the government, she added

Difficulties 

When we entered the first camp, a group of men in the army uniform asked us to pay them, as they were believing in that we had money but after a long discussion they gave us the green light and we convinced them that we are activists who are helping IDPs mothers to protect themselves from COVID-19. Maintaining social distance in the camp was also a challenge.

Strong messages that came out of the media project

Religious leaders praised the role of GMC in the fight against FGM during this time of the COVID-19, as it is the time to look back on the situations in the camps. It is noteworthy that in 2020 GMC distributed radios (10 dollar coats) to these IDPs living in the camps to listen to FGM programs from radios in Somalia. Some of the local media covered the activists in the capital. 

Gatekeeper Munina pledged that she will monitor the people in the camp to wear the face mask and also amplify the FGM awareness in the camps. Sheikh Ali Mohamed, a camp resident, described the assistance as an unprecedented step and noted he will speak out in the mosque to raise awareness camping of FGM and COVID.

The awareness of the dangers of FGM practice has reduced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Imams

Unexpected Wins; Challenges 

Religious leaders in the camp and the gate keepers have promised to consistently tell the people in the camp to wear the face mask and promote FGM awareness as the government ordered the closure of all schools for four weeks. Public places in the camp will be set up on the Radio for people to listen to FGM and COVID awareness programs.

Imams pledged to speak out in the mosques in the camps. 

Women groups in the camps have made it clear that they will be touring the neighborhoods every morning to raise awareness of FGM and COVID.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the gatekeepers and the Imams pledged to continue raising vital awareness of the need to protect girls from FGM.

Impact 

We have chosen to work with Kalsan TV and Goobjoog TV which have an audience of over 10 million. 

Kalsan TV link: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=254865832797427 

Goobjoog TV link: https://youtu.be/IN33yEYSNsc 

Linkages 

The local media who worked with us during the project have pledged to continue working with us during the pandemic. The Imams and gatekeepers also said they would contact us if they saw any cases of FGM inside the camp.

Next time

We will monitor the FGM cases in both camps during the COVID-19 and we will work with gatekeepers and Imams in both camps.

Ruth Harley

Ruth is an opera singer collaborating with women in Kenya using indigenous music to end FGM. She is compiling stories written by End FGM campaigners working with the Global Media Campaign to End FGM.