Bishops in Ireland, European Union Launch Initiative against Sexual Violence in Somalia

Logo calling for an end to Female Genital Mutilation

Catholic Bishops in Ireland have, in partnership with the leadership of the European Union (EU), launched a campaign against Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) in Somalia.

Launched on the “International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) marked February 6, the initiative that involves the overseas development agency of the Catholic Bishops in Ireland, Trocaire, targets the people living in Belet Hawa and Luuq districts of the Gedo region in Somalia in the Catholic Diocese of Mogadishu. 

Somalia is one of the countries with the highest prevalence of FGM among girls and women aged 15 to 49 at 98 percent, according to the United Nations (UN). 

Dubbed “Facilitating Inclusive Rights Movements’ Actions in Communities to Combat Sexual and Gender Based Violence (FIRM ACTS),” the project is one of several initiatives that seek to address the “widespread issues” of SGBV and FGM in Somalia with funding from the EU, Trocaire officials say in their February 6 report obtained by ACI Africa. 

The two-year project (2021-2022) funded through the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights aims at “creating a safe environment for women and girls, free from SGBV, while promoting access to their rights,” officials of the Catholic agency note. 


Making reference to the FIRM ACTS project, they add, “It has two main components: behavior change interventions to abandon Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), and empowerment of community actors and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) for sustainable change.” 

In implementing the project, Trocaire and EU and the local partner identified as SEDHURO are expected to “adopt a human rights and community based approach to address the root causes of SGBV, and aims to combat harmful norms while promoting women’s agency to claim their rights.” 

The initiative seeks to“support CSOs, communities and authorities to harmonize their approaches and support national policies and action plans to combat SGBV,” the leadership of Trocaire, which has a dual mandate of supporting the most vulnerable people in the developing world while also raising awareness of injustice and global poverty in Ireland says. 

The project is in line with the aspirations of the Somalia government, which has “committed to zero tolerance for female genital mutilation in its national development plan,” officials of the 48-year-old Catholic agency say.

The 2021-2022 FIRM ACTS project is also in line with the Somali Women’s Charter, which calls for laws to end FGM, officials of the Ireland-headquartered agency note in the February 6 report. 

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“A Women Empowerment Programme such as this is unprecedented in the Gedo region. Sustainable change in social norms must be rooted in community-led actions, which this project will place emphasis on,” Trócaire’s Country Director in Somalia, Paul Healy has been quoted as saying in the report.

To him, the community-led approach adopted in the project “has been Trócaire’s way of working in Somalia for decades.” 

On his part, the EU Ambassador to Somalia, Nicolás Berlanga Martinez termed FGM an exercise that “conflicts with the most fundamental human rights,” and pledged the EU’s support to the Horn of Africa nation as it strives towards zero tolerance against the practice. 

“The EU has always been a steadfast supporter of women’s rights, and more specifically when it comes to combatting Sexual and Gender-Based Violence and Female Genital Mutilation practices,” he added.

Speaking on behalf of community leaders, Luuq District Health Board Chairman, Hussein Awil, assured the project partners of their support in ensuring the goals of the initiative are achieved.


“The Luuq Women Group is committed to working with Trócaire throughout the project, and we will aim to strengthen the women group’s advocacy capacity by participating actively in capacity building sessions and by taking advantage of other opportunities provided within this project,” said Luuq District Women Group Chairwoman, Shamsa Maalim.

Introduced in 2003, the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation strives to create awareness against FGM, as part of the UN’s efforts to eradicate the practice. 

This year’s Day was marked under the theme, “No Time for Global Inaction, Unite, Fund, and Act to End Female Genital Mutilation.”