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Igniting Hope, Peace and Health in Somalia

In Somalia, a community project involving local students is helping to build a brighter future for the country. CHGN’s friends Dr. Yusuf Sheikh Omar and Dr. Khadijo Mohamed Osman launched the project, and here they tell us all about it.

For the last 25 years Somalia has experienced a devastating civil war that has completely destroyed national institutions, and undermined social foundations. This war has also ruined basic life requirements such as health, housing, education, clean water and so on. The younger generation has grown up in this miserable, disillusioning environment, one which lacks a sense of hope, safety, and trust in the community. The psyches and emotions of these people have severely been injured. A war mentality and violent culture has become part of youngsters’ everyday life. Because of their tendencies to violence – along with their sense of hopelessness – young people can easily be recruited by warlords, syndicate pirates, drug dealers, other criminal syndicates and religious extremist groups.

Khadijo and I are members of the Somali diaspora, with higher education qualifications in social sciences, conflict resolution, peace education, and health related training skills and experiences such as drug discovery, mental health, emotional difficulties, and social healing. Our desire is to give back to our homeland by working with university students and young people from disadvantaged and marginalised communities. We hope to nurture these participants with universal peace values, human rights, non-violent conflict resolution, effective communication, conflict transformation skills, a sense of care for the environment, and basic public health skills. We hope this can help them transform themselves positively, and to develop a culture of peace, harmony, coexistence as well as a healthy environment.

This peace and health education will also help university students and young people restore a sense of hope, confidence, community spirit, social solidarity and wellbeing: physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. Our objectives are to help university students and young people understand and identify the root causes of Somalis’ social, and health and environment problems, and how to develop appropriate solutions, believing that this will reflect in the long term on Somali society in positive ways.

We first ran this training as a pilot for Mogadishu University students in 2015, which opened the door to a more ambitious program for other higher education students in 2016. The 2016 program was run in four universities: Mogadishu, Hargeisa, East Africa and Somali National Universities.

A culturally appropriate approach was blended together with modern approaches to conflict transformation and peace capacity building. Since Somalia is a Muslim country and defined as a ‘nation of poets’, the delivery emphasised the role of Islamic teachings in opposing the use of violence, and included sessions in using the creative arts for peace building such as Gabay (poetry), Buraanbur (women’s poems) composed by participants themselves, songs, Sheeko xariir (storytelling), Somali proverbs endorsing peace building, watching peace documentaries relevant to the local context, and sessions of reflection and inner-dialogue.

According to feedback from participants, the training was very successful and left positive impacts on the participants. At each University campus the participants formed their own peace network and now maintain regular contact with us. As well as having a local significance the training impacted on the worldwide Somali community through community media including TV, radio, and social media. The Somali community developed sense of ownership of the initiative, and therefore, the community contributed to the cost of the training and some community members donated a land in Mogadishu to build a peace centre.

For further details, please contact:

Dr Yusuf Sheikh Omar (Director, Ilaysnabad: Dialogue & Development Initiative [IDDI])

Global Advisor for Global Reconciliation

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