humanitarianism | January 30, 2013

Letters from Somalia: Lisa Shannon on Violence Against Women

The mood at Sister Somalia is somber. Co-founded by Lisa Shannon, the organization is located in Mogadishu and provides support to Somali sexual violence survivors. They were making progress, and women were speaking out against the atrocities occurring in the region. However, as Shannon explains in The New York Times, a recent incident has pushed them several steps back. After a woman came forward about being abused by government officials, she was accused of fabricating the attack and charged with having "insulted and lowered the dignity of a National Institution." As Shannon writes: "Survivors [now] mumble between themselves: Can I talk to journalists again? To staff? To each other?" Coming forward in such instances is no easy task, and Shannon hopes that new Somali president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, will take a stand against this kind of violence.

"It’s taken a long time to get women in Somalia to speak openly about this," Shannon tells The Times. "Now they are all terrified." She recently visited Mogadishu, to investigate first-hand. While she says the situation is still dire, there is hope that public awareness and outreach can help turn the tide. Shannon's done it before in the Congo, when she founded Run for Congo Women and authored A Thousand Sisters: My Journey into the Worst Place on Earth to Be a Woman to help raise awareness and aid for African women.

Shannon now gives empathetic and eye-opening keynotes and media appearances about the subject. She shares the harrowing stories of the women she has met to audiences around the world—and inspires them to make a difference. She also explores the powerful impact that cultivating female leadership can have, and explains that we need to re-think our relationship with Africa. She combines hard-hitting messages with hopeful suggestions about how we can help those who need it most.

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cities | January 29, 2013