10 Mar 2022
By: Claudia Rosel


Galmudug - Women continue to play an important role in peacebuilding processes in Somalia. Their ability to cross inter-communal boundaries and unite people from different clans gives them an edge, if given a chance, to be effective agents of change in their communities.  

In Xerale, a small district in Galmudug State, a group of local women are paving the way to advance their rights while protecting the environment. Under the leadership of Khadija, a herder and chairperson of the women´s group, women are working together to bolster their representation in decision-making processes and raise awareness of domestic violence, female genital mutilation, and environmental issues. 

But this essential work has faced obstacles due to social norms that undermine women’s participation in leadership in Somalia.  

“Women bear an unequal brunt of the hardships induced by poverty, conflict, and climate change,” said Aminanimo Abdirahman, International Organization for Migration (IOM). “Traditionally, Somali society promotes male hierarchy and authority, which marginalizes women from taking part in decisions affecting their lives.” 

Women in Xerale, Galmudug, participated in a clean-up activity while promoting environmental awareness across the wider community.

To overcome those challenges, IOM in collaboration with the local and state-level authorities started a project in Xerale to support women as leaders and peacemakers in their communities. The project leverages women´s unique position to amplify their role as leaders in environmental conservation activities. 

“IOM is not only the first organization to support us, but the first one who reached out to find if we do have an active women’s group,” says Khadija. 

During the two-month long activity, IOM provided training on environmental awareness, conservation, and waste management and then supported community clean-ups and tree planting in Xerale town. All the activities were led by the women who invited the wider community to join them.  

The women themselves proposed the idea for the project during a community consultation in November 2021. It builds on existing environmental cleaning activities that were being carried out by local women with only a shoestring budget.  

“IOM is helping women continue their activities and reach more people by providing tools, tree saplings, and training on environmental conservation,” Amina said.  

Community members in Xerale plant trees together as part of the IOM activity.

Through a social cohesion approach, the project also supports the women to mobilize and lead environmental initiatives across their community, collective action that rebuilds trust among groups with historical grievances. As a result, the women have seen an increase in volunteers taking part in their environmental activities. 

Halima, 42, an active member of the group and a health worker from Xerale, was encouraged by the signs of solidarity in her community.  

“Community reach and participation is of prime importance to ensure sustainability and acceptance of any waste management plan. Now other groups in my town have accepted to take up responsibilities thanks to our activity,” she said. “The schools started a tree nursery, market vendors contributed to waste management, while women groups continue staging community cleanup actions.”  

The involvement of women in decision-making processes has often been resisted by the local administration in Xerale, but this is beginning to change. 

 “Before, the community had no trust in my abilities due to cultural traits, but this project involves the Galmudug State ministries, and IOM. I feel it will promote women’s inclusion and consideration of women as leaders,” Khadija said.  

Support to the Xerale women-led environmental project was possible thanks to the EU-funded Daryeel programme. It was done in coordination with the Ministry of Women and Human Rights in Galmudug State and is part of IOM’s community stabilization portfolio.  

For more information, please contact  

Claudia Rosel, IOM Somalia Communications Officer, 

Leena Anita Saarinen, IOM Somalia Programme Officer,