Mar 08, 2011

Multiple Discrimination Faced by Somali Women in Ethiopia and Somalia Highlighted at UN

UNPO facilitates side event at UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York underlining severe disparities in access to health, education and recourse to justice.

This article was written by: UNPO.


UNPO alongside the African Rights Monitor (ARM) convened an afternoon seminar to run parallel to the 55th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, convened in New York on March 1st 2011.

The session, facilitated by Ms. Maggie Murphy, Programme Coordinator of UNPO, featured Ms. Huda Yusuf, ARM’s Executive Director who made a shocking exposé of the inequalities in health care, education, but who also gave an incredible account of the sense of impunity experienced by Ethiopian government or military officials accused of mass rape of and sexual violence against Somali women in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia. Despite the lodging of several complaints in recent years, perpetrators remained at large and no inquest into the accusations has taken place.

Also speaking was Dr. Deqo Mohamed, who, alongside her mother and sister recently won Glamour Magazine’s Women of the Year award for her work in a hospital just outside of Mogadishu in Somalia with a particular focus on female refugees and IDPs. She gave a firsthand account of the problems of funding such an institution and also of the effects of the total lack of governance in the country which partners the severe need in the communities she serves. “Sometimes whilst looking after one patient, I get called to another at the end of the corridor. I have to decide – who dies? This one or that one? Because I know one will if I don’t attend to them”.

The event generated extensive debate from those present, which included NGO staff and representatives as well as the honorary Mayor of Harlem, Queen Mother Dr. Delois N. Blakely. Of the response, UNPO’s Maggie Murphy said “They ranged from pure incredulity about the lack of awareness of these women’s plights on an international level and disbelief of the apparent unwillingness of the international community to act, to the very practical, with mutual experiences shared and possible steps forward debated”.

The meeting at the UN Commission on the Status of Women is just a series of initiatives UNPO is running with partners to address rights violations and discrimination taking place in Ethiopia at high level forums including the European Parliament and the UN.

Photo: Glamour Magazine Women of the Year [from left to right] Dr Deqo Mohamed, Dr Hawa Abdi, Dr Amina Mohamed.