Fartuun Adan: The World Is One Family. Let’s Treat Each Other That Way
Ilwad says, “There is love, beauty, friendship and community thriving here. And if we heard more about that, it would allow people around the world to see themselves in the people they have ‘othered.’ And when they see themselves in others, that’s when we can really work toward peace.”
I’m a mother. But for me that never meant caring just for my three children. Even as I fled my Somali homeland with my girls after the assassination of their father by Somali warlords, I knew that was real. The peace-building program of my husband, “Drop the Gun, Pick Up the Pen” was a challenge for personal gain to those undermining Somali society. His life was committed to the eradication of violence, so I knew I had to continue my work.
In order to find a safe haven, my daughters and I went to Canada. Yet I knew I’d be back. I told my daughters, once I calmed down, that I was going there. They feared for my safety, and they were afraid that their only parent would be lost. But I reminded them: in Somalia, young boys didn’t have a job, had no future, and were forced to become child soldiers. They abused, raped, and mutilated Somali girls and women. These crimes are rejected by the government and justice for the victims is refused. I felt in many ways that these young boys and girls were my kids, too. And while their children were facing such atrocities, no mother would stand idly by. So I listened to my conscience, and then I went out again.
I started the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre to provide much-needed access to education in honour of my husband. That’s where we started off. Education is often out of the question in Somalia, a luxury unavailable to most. Extremists take advantage of this all too often, pressuring young boys to become fighters even when they just do not want to kill. They’re entering because there are no other openings. But education gives an option to these boys. 80% of those who want training at Elman will graduate with the skills they need to safeguard themselves and their futures.
I began the Sister Somalia program for women who urgently needed hope, to support girls in my country who have survived rape or escaped forced marriages. Today, Somalia has a hotline for sexual assault and a rape crisis center for the first time. We can claim today that we have met 8,000 women and girls who have been victims of gender-based and sexual harassment. We provide therapy and medical care, start-up kits and funds for business, training for entrepreneurial skills, and relocation to a safe place. Seeing the unimaginable, girls finding their voice, leaving the middle, more inspired, knowing we stand with them, has been so rewarding.
Due to our work, we have also started to see a behavioural and cultural change. Slowly, we are cracking down the social conventions that have ignored such heinous abuse against women and children. We also placed pressure on international bodies such as the United Nations to hold peacekeepers accountable for their violence, and this has contributed to concrete progress. My daughters now understand why I came back to support their sisters and brothers in Somalia, and that keeps me alive.
I was joined by my own daughter, Ilwad, who dedicated herself to supporting the community here too. Words can’t define how proud I am. “There is love, beauty, friendship and community thriving here as Ilwad says. And if we knew more of it it would make it easier for people all over the world to see themselves in the people they’ve ‘othered.’ And when they see themselves in others, we can really move towards peace.”
I’ve come to understand through our work that we all share one humanity. We are one family of humans. And whether it’s for our own children or the children of our world, we have an obligation to support those most at risk. This is actually what a mother is doing.
From some news agency