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Somalia: Early Marriages, FGM and Closure of Businesses Threaten Girls and Women as Drought Worsens

A woman puts her hand on her head while looking away.

CARE International

CARE International

(Somalia, March 25, 2022) Indicators point to the erosion of gains made for girls’ and women’s rights in Somalia as the drought worsens. Girls are being forced to drop out of school putting them at risk of harmful traditional practices such as early marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Women-run businesses have been hit especially hard with 98% of them having lost revenue and income due to the high cost of goods, and 51% have been forced to close.  

As the primary caregivers in the home, women have the responsibility of taking care of children and this can be extremely difficult when their source of income is disrupted. In Dhobley, Somalia, 42-year-old Faduma arrives at an IDP camp with 100 frail goats from her home in Wajir, Kenya. These are all that remain of her herd which comprised of 300 goats that provided her with milk and meat. She has traveled over 200 kilometers with her four children in order to try and sell the remaining goats. “Unfortunately, most of our animals have died due to the drought, and as you can see, these are the remaining few. No one buys our goats because they are weak and so have very little value. We do not have any relatives in this area, and we need assistance,” Faduma said. 

Missing meals is the harsh reality across many homesteads in Somalia as the effects of the failed rains in the region worsen the drought and women-led businesses crumble. At Wadajir Camp, 32-year-old Khadija arrived seeking food for the survival of her seven children. “Due to the drought, we lost all our 80 cows and are left with only 15 of the 70 goats we had. With no source of income, I’m unable to put food on the table for my children. Today I was able to get them some breakfast, but now I don’t know what they will eat later. Somedays you have something to eat and somedays you don’t,” Khadija said. 

CARE is also concerned about the impact of the drought on Girls and their education. Even in locations where CARE and other organizations support education, more girls of school-going age were found to be out of school (37%) compared to boys (35%). Iman Abdullahi, CARE in Somalia Country Director said, “The drought has pushed parents to drop their girls out of school as school fees costs are unattainable due to loss of income. Most families are now opting to send boys to school at the expense of the girl child. We fear that will be an increase in early marriages and practices like FGM as was witnessed during the COVID-19 lockdowns when schools were closed.”  

Presently, CARE is supporting 25, of the 51, IDP camps to construct and rehabilitate temporary learning spaces. We are also engaged in training teachers at the camps to offer education to children who have arrived with their mothers. Concurrently, we are also providing teaching materials to the teachers and learning materials to the children. At the same time, we are working with the people in the camps to establish Community Education Committees-CECs which will oversee education matters in the camps. CARE is also providing monthly incentives to 80 community-employed teachers.  

CARE is looking to work together with women who have lost their sources of income by providing new skill development even as the drought persists. In the camps, women are given unconditional cash and voucher assistance to enable them to provide for their children even as they continue to source for other ways to earn a living. 

A lot still needs to be done as the funding gap to support relief efforts is underfunded by 92%. The 2022 Somalia Humanitarian Response Plan requires US$1.46 billion to reach 5.5 million people across all 74 districts of the country but only US$ 47.5 million is available. 

For More Information:

Rachel Kent
Senior Press Officer


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