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PN interviews Habiba Issack, coordinator of the Habiba International women's rights group in the largely Somali population of Mandera district in north-east Kenya.

Kenya: women's rights

PN How are Habiba International Women and Youth Affairs struggling for women's rights?

HI By building Somali women's capacity to know and understand their human as well as legal rights, thereby promoting their self-determination and effective involvement in community affairs.

By awakening, stimulating and empowering the Somali women to systematically and effectively assert, claim and defend their legal and human rights and address, monitor and effectively respond to abuses and violence e.g. female genital mutilation (FGM).

By mobilising, strengthening and garnering grassroots support for the movement for women's human rights in Mandera District.

By empowering the Somali women to promote and protect their fundamental rights and freedoms decisively and eradicate inequality, discrimination, as well as negative cultural traditions and practices.

By sensitising the Somali women to reject violence (clan wars) as a means of resolving conflicts, and instead embrace communication, cooperative decision-making and nonviolent conflict resolution in order to ensure free, secure, peaceful and equitable relationships.

PN What obstacles do you face?

HI The obstacles to our work include: finance, illiteracy, poverty, gender inequality and patriarchal society.

PN How did Habiba International Women and Youth Affairs come about?

HI Habiba International was started in 2000. The idea of starting the organisation came about following the traditional circumcision ceremony in which my daughter was involved. She was traumatized and dropped out of school.

I met other mothers who faced the same plight and decided to fight the practice and hence the decision to form the organisation was made.

The organisation is located on the border of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia where there are frequent conflicts and incidents of violence and human rights violations.

PN What is your attitude to nonviolence as a strategy/philosophy?

HI Nonviolence strategies are the best to solve disputes.

Reconciliation and dialogue that aims to bring people together will bring about the desired outcome in any conflict

This will help in restoring and building relationships among conflicting parties. For its success it must have the elements of truth, mercy, justice and peace.

PN How has the current Kenyan political situation affected women's rights and Habiba International's work in particular?

HI The Kenyan political situation has affected many women in Kenya socially and economically. Many women have been raped, battered, dropped out of school and lost income opportunities.

Clans within the Somali community are now fighting for limited resources to take advantage of the political situation in Kenya, which makes women who were the most vulnerable even more disadvantaged.

PN What do you know of other women's organisations and movements in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa?

HI Habiba International networks with many organisations

Topics: Global South | Women