The prevalence and risks of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) escalate during times of crisis, as pre-existing gender inequalities are further intensified by the chaos and tensions within households, communities, and society at large. In emergency contexts, GBV is a widespread issue, impacting children and women, who face heightened vulnerabilities. Exposure to GBV can have a devastating impact on children’s physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. According to UNICEF, there are about 4.9 million school-age children in Somalia, of whom more than 3 million are out of school. This includes 1.4 million crisis-affected children, 705,615 of whom are girls, mainly IDP children living on the edge of the ongoing climate crisis, conflict, and other crises under the most challenging circumstances, increasing their vulnerability and protection needs.
The harm suffered by the children is not limited only to traumatic experiences suffered while at their home villages, but it is also prevalent in the IDP settlements where child protection and comprehensive coping mechanisms structures are not in place. The parents may also encounter additional stressors of poverty, overcrowding, disconnection from their previous sources of social support, and resource insecurity. Consequently, these communities face adversity on multiple fronts, increasing their risk of developing mental health conditions. Crucial resources like psychosocial support and trauma counselling provide vital emotional aid to those grappling with their mental health and other difficult circumstances.
Nomadic Assistance for Peace and Development (NAPAD), in partnership with Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe (DKH) with funding from the German Humanitarian Assistance (GFFO), is currently implementing a project in the Banadir region of Somalia aimed at ensuring that internally displaced girls and boys have safe access to inclusive education in emergencies. One of the strategies being employed is the provision of Psychosocial Support (PSS), which involves engaging key figures in the education sector, including teachers, members of the Community Education Committee(CEC), parents, and community leaders.
Within the four supported IDP schools in Kahda and Garasbaley, NAPAD is actively providing psychosocial support and holding monthly GBV dialogues among the 800 enrolled pupils. The approach involves conducting participatory and interactive dialogue sessions, creating an environment that empowers students to openly share their thoughts and diverse viewpoints. These dialogues are additionally extended to encompass teachers, members of the CEC, parents, and community leaders. Specifically, teachers are trained as PSS facilitators, particularly with a focus on addressing GBV and providing proper referral pathways.
Through these dialogues, students are also educated about how to identify, prevent, and respond to GBV. This initiative has played a crucial role in empowering children to speak out against GBV and seek assistance whenever required. The psychosocial support provided also creates a safe and nurturing space for students to process their experiences, simultaneously arming them with the tools needed to manage their mental well-being.
Deko Hussein Farah, aged 15, is one of the beneficiaries of this project. She was enrolled in Masqud Primary School in 2021. Deko enthusiastically shares her experience, highlighting how together with her peers they have actively been involved in diverse discussions aimed at creating awareness on various topics like Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), early marriage, child labour, and other forms of GBV.
Through these learner centered GBV dialogues and psychosocial support, the learners have access to an inclusive and safe learning environment that promotes learner’s well-being and empowers students. Moreover, the retention rate of children within the supported schools has been notably high. Additionally, a few months ago the teachers and CECs effectively communicated with the parents of a young girl who was at risk of an arranged marriage and as a result of these efforts, she was able to return to school prior to the occurrence of the marriage.