About 40 women from grassroots organizations in Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, and other countries in the Horn of Africa met recently to discuss how to rebuild their war-torn societies.
Women’s organizations are struggling to restart schools and hospitals, and are looking into getting grants from international donors to help them. Many have started programs in their hometowns and are looking for more support. For example, with help from the European Union and an Italian humanitarian group, Somalian woman Halima Arush started a boarding school in Merca for militiamen who agreed to give up their guns in return for shelter, food, and education.
The women agreed that peace was the priority in the conflict-ridden area. “While the men are discussing who should take power, the women are the ony ones who are dealing with the basic problems — how to educate the children, rebuild schools and hospitals,” said Hibaaq O. Basbas, director of the Center for the Strategic Initiatives of Women. Once peace has been achieved, they will work to attain equal rights for women, who have little political presence.
Basbas said the Strategic Initiative for the Horn of Africa will help women organize at the grassroots level to promote women’s rights, eliminate gender discrimination, encourage alliances between women from different areas, and put women in leadership roles.