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How a new data platform is helping activists tackle gender-based violence in Somalia

The Violence Observatory System – established by Saferworld, Somalia Women Development Centre and Somali Women’s Study Centre – documents cases of violence against women in Somalia.

The Violence Observatory System is a data collection project designed to document the experiences of survivors of violence. Volunteers collect responses on a digital platform that’s monitored and analysed for trends and responses. The whole system – which has data from regions such as Baidoa, Mogadishu, Kismayo and Wajid – supports survivors, helps authorities, and works with women activists who report on gender equality in the country. It is crucial in efforts to address violence against women in Somalia, and in creating a sustainable, women- and Somali-led response to gender-based violence.

Hani Ahmed Ibrahim is an activist who documents cases of violence against women, informs authorities and raises awareness around incidents. She explains the process: “We collect information by actively listening to women and observing their daily activities. It allows us to gather first-hand accounts, capturing the true experiences of survivors. Our primary goal is to provide survivors with the support they need to heal and recover. We connect them with relevant resources, such as medical, legal aid or counselling services, to ensure they receive comprehensive assistance. 

“We work closely with the local authorities to report cases of violence and urge them to take appropriate actions. By providing them with data and evidence, we strengthen our advocacy efforts. We are committed to amplifying the voices of survivors and advocating for their rights and safety. By documenting cases, supporting survivors and collaborating with relevant authorities and organisations, we strive to create a safer and more equitable society for women in Somalia.” 

Hibo Hassan Sulub is another volunteer activist who dedicates her time to transforming the dynamics that lead to gender-based violence. Hibo explains how she raises community awareness and supports survivors:

“My role is to protect women and prevent any form of violence that results in physical, sexual or psychological harm. I make community members aware of these issues and work to create a safer environment for women. We actively observe our surroundings, seeking out any hidden cases of gender-based violence. By using Kobocollect [a data collection tool specifically developed for gender-based violence activism], we can efficiently collect information and document these incidents. Upon encountering cases, we prioritise ethical considerations and forward the information to relevant security agencies such as the police, health ministries and NGOs. We ensure that survivors receive the necessary medical and psychological support, counselling services and legal assistance.

“One notable case involved Fatima, a young girl pursuing her secondary education. Fatima's father arranged a marriage for her at the age of 18 without considering her educational aspirations. Recognising the importance of education for Fatima, we intervened and engaged in extensive efforts to change her father's perspective. Through consistent advocacy and dialogue, we successfully convinced him to allow Fatima to continue her education. As a result, Fatima was able to pursue her studies and avoid a forced marriage. She now remains happily in education. 

“We work with relevant authorities, engaging in discussions and networking platforms that focus on women activists. By strengthening these partnerships, we can create a collective front against violence.” 

The future of the Violence Observatory System 

Together, activists, volunteers and organisations will expand the system’s community awareness efforts, enhance data collection and support more women activists to actively participate in reducing violence against women. Hibo concludes, “We are committed to our mission of protecting women and preventing gender-based violence. By sharing success stories, we inspire others to join the cause and work towards creating a society where women are safe, have power and are free from violence.”