Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Land, housing, women's rights vital to Somalia stability: aid agency

MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- Land, housing and women’s empowerment are crucial to the stability of Somalia, a report issued on Monday by an aid agency said.

The report by the Norwegian Refugee Council says lack of access to land, housing and property, and a lack of women’s empowerment are the two main drivers hampering efforts towards finding durable solutions for displaced communities in Somalia.

The Norwegian Refugee Council’s Regional Director in the Horn of Africa, Gabriella Waaijman, said competition for land and other natural resources were the most significant factors fuelling past conflict and current instability in Somalia.

The report received in the Somali capital Mogadishu says women in Somalia are more affected by housing, land and property violations compared to men.

The report identifies challenges displaced women living in urban settlements in Somalia are facing when exercising their rights to access housing, land and property.

The report comes at a time when Kenya has decided to repatriate hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees living in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp.

Waaijman said the findings of the report are crucial to the successful reintegration of these communities and Somalia’s future stability.

The study reveals that while there are initiatives supporting women’s rights to housing, land and property, many barriers exist, especially those relating to Somali norms regarding the balance of power between men and women.

"Discriminatory customs have been used to deny women inheritance and divorce rights available to them under Sharia law, often casting aspersions on a woman’s character if she seeks to claim them," Waaijman said.

"Furthermore, some women have reported that access to non-customary justice mechanisms have been blocked if elders did not support the case," Waaijman added.

It is important that all actors working on Somalia’s stabilization and reconstruction understand the social dynamics around women’s role in society, and respond accordingly, the report says.

Displaced women’s housing, land and property rights must be addressed given their specific vulnerabilities and help strengthen their resilience, it adds.

The report points to Somalia’s National Development Plan process as providing an opportunity to institutionalize housing, land and property rights, and secure durable solutions for displaced communities.

"The voices of displaced people must be included in the forums where housing and land issues are discussed.

"Displaced women are sorely lacking in these spaces to speak and access decision-makers who are willing to listen," said Waaijman.

An estimated 1.1 million Somalis are internally displaced, in addition to the expected returnees from Kenya, according to the UN.

Kenya hosts over 400,000 Somalia refugees, including the more than 300,000 in Dadaab refugee camp.