In 2010, when she was just 21, Fatuma (name changed) was raped by seven men from her neighborhood in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland. When her family found her, she was rushed to the Hargeisa Group Hospital “Bahikoob Centre” which specializes in sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) cases.
The Bahikoob Centre helped Fatuma access support networks and legal aid to ensure that her attackers were prosecuted. “I didn’t want my case negotiated. Even my family wanted me to take a settlement and drop the case. I didn’t want money. I wanted justice,” said Fatuma.
Established in 2008 with support from UNDP, the Bahikoob Centre helps survivors of sexual violence like Fatuma access medical, psychosocial and legal services. In Hargeisa alone, the Bahikoob Centre deals with about 25 cases per month.
Asha Roobleh, a social worker at the Bahikoob Centre, worked closely with Fatuma to get her case to court. “We’ve seen a huge increase in these kinds of cases over the last few years,” says Asha. “The officials didn’t know how to handle these kinds of cases. That’s when we stepped in to help.”
In addition to their work with victims and raising awareness in the community, they also train police to better protect victims of SGBV. Now there are Bahikoob facilities in Boroma and Burao Hospitals as well.
The Bahikoob Centre has seen a significant increase in the number of cases going to court in Somaliland, as well as survivors coming forward for treatment at the Hargeisa Group Hospital. From 2012 to 2014, the caseload nearly doubled – and in 2014 399 SGBV cases were reported. Out of these, 191 were prosecuted with 47 convictions.
Fatuma’s case was transferred to the prosecutors and a judge assigned to the case. Her rapists were convicted and sentenced to jail terms. Despite her own personal trauma, Fatuma remains resilient. “What happened to me was so bad, and I want to make sure that other victims can access justice,” she said. Her story has gained publicity in the Somaliland media and helped raise awareness for gender-based and sexual violence. Fatuma has met other victims of SGBV and helps them gain the confidence to seek justice.
With funding from the EU, the UK and Norway, the Bahikoob Centres are part of an overall package of the UNDP’s Access to Justice Project, which is itself part of the joint UNDP/UNSOM/UNICEF/UNODC/UNOPS programme on Rule of Law, to ensure more Somalis have access to fair and affordable justice (with a focus on vulnerable groups such as women and internally displaced people). This includes long-term education and training for lawyers, judges and paralegals as well as support to civil society organisations, non-governmental organisations and service providers to effectively respond to and report crimes. By the end of 2014, 14,950 people (including 6,529 women) accessed UNDP-supported legal aid services to resolve disputes across Somalia.