Celebrating children and their Rights on Universal Children’s Day in Garowe, Somalia

Tuesday 21 November 2017

‘’I want a childhood without violence.  I want to be protected from any form of punishment while I am at school,’’ says Mohamed Elmi confidently as he gazed right through my eyes.

Yesterday, I joined students from Barwaqo Primary School in one of the camps for Internally Displaced People (IDP) in Garowe where I met Mohamed—a class five pupil. We were there to celebrate with them the Universal Children’s Day.  This year Save the Children is standing with all Somali children as they raise their voices and demand an end to Violence Against Children.

Universal Children's Day, marked on 20 November every year offers each of us an opportunity to support, promote and celebrate children's rights, translating into dialogues and actions that will help put an end to Violence Against Children! Somalia ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in January 2015 and the ratification process was completed in October 2015 making Somalia the 195th state party to ratify the Convention. Though this provides an exciting opportunity to promote the rights of children, Somali children, like millions of their peers across the world, continue face daily challenges including violence and abuse.

For Somalia/Somaliland the situation is even worse. Somali children are affected by waves of conflicts, severe droughts and are subjected to harmful traditional practices including Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting and child marriage. The 2017 drought has left more than one million children in at risk of increased violence, child labour and being separated from their families.

Mohamed Elmi, who is also a keen artist and his classmates, attended this year’s event in their school in Garowe, Somalia. Children participated in various activities such as the art competition where they created drawings illustrating some of the harassment they encounter on their way to school. 

‘’Sometimes when walking to school, I meet older men and boys who try to harass me and abuse me,’’ says Mohamed.  ‘’My friends and I like to play a lot but we don’t have many places to go and play. The street is where we go to play football and find these older boys who harass us. They like to scare us and we feel threatened because we cannot do anything to defend ourselves. We don’t want to be called bad children while all we are doing is enjoying being children.”

Khadra Ahmed, 16 years old standard six student, also presented drawings of herself and her friends. Khadra says forcing children to do house chores is also violence against children, which needs to stop.

‘’Many girls in my village have dropped out of school because they were forced by their parents to stay home and help with cleaning dishes and cooking for their families. My friends and I are lucky since we have not been subjected to this form of discrimination but many girls have been denied a chance to finish school because of who they are. 

We need to educate parents and the community on the issue,’’ she added.  

To stop violence against children, Save the Children Somalia/Somaliland is taking action by mobilizing communities and raising awareness on the rights of children. We work with communities in Puntland, Somaliland and Central and South Somalia through established Child Right Clubs, Children Welfare Committee and Community Education Committees to fight for children’s rights and help them enjoy their childhood.

 ‘’Together we can protect our children from abuse, neglect, and all forms of physical and humiliating punishments both at school and their homes. If we do this, we shall see an increase in the number of children going to school and attending class, participation in learning and completion of their education,’’ believes Charles Okesa, Norad Framework Programme Manager.

Growing up in a country such as Somalia where Government institutions were destroyed after the collapse of the Government in 1991, I got inspired to work with children who are as strong willed as Khadra and Mohamed. In their school, despite the challenges of growing up here, I saw determined children and teachers who are committed to end violence against children.  However, greater support and participation from the community is needed for the wellbeing of its children in ending violence and promoting children’s rights in Puntland and Somalia. 

Blog and photos by Said Isse

Media & Communication Coordinator, Puntland