Protection for women and girls who have survived sexual and gender-based violence

In Somaliland, sexual and gender-based violence is widespread. However, most cases of female genital cutting, child marriage or domestic violence are not reported because those affected feel  ashamed and are often held responsible for their own suffering. In this project survivors are offered a safe refuge by three women’s shelters. There, they receive medical first aid, board and lodging and psychotherapeutic support. The women can learn to read and write or learn a trade and thus gain some independence.


Country / Region / Place
Somaliland: Hargeisa, Burco, Borama

Target group
Women and girls who are victims of sexual and gender-based violence (6,300 direct beneficiaries)

Funding requirement
Around 177,700 Swiss francs per year

Project duration
Long-term child sponsorship


Project objective
Women and girls who have been victims of sexual and gender-based violence have access to safe accommodation as well as to medical and legal support.

Project coordinator
Stefanie Enssle, Tel: 041 419 22 35; sensslenot shown@caritasto make life hard for spam


Background information

For more than two decades, the lives of people in Somaliland have been marked by forced displacements, armed conflicts with neighbouring Somalia, and recurring droughts and other natural disasters. Despite the ongoing crisis in which Somaliland finds itself, the interest of the media and the international community has declined. It is women and girls in particular who have to bear an incomparably heavier burden in Somaliland, because socio-cultural norms severely circumscribe their role and status.  In addition, a majority of the women and girls are exposed to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) such as female genital cutting, child marriage or domestic violence. 

The majority of the SGBV survivors find themselves socially marginalised and weakened by physical suffering, as for example chronic pain, depression and severe and acute injuries. Many rape victims, for example, are prevented from returning to their families for fear of social exclusion. They have to look for alternative ways of earning a living, and because of the stigmatisation, have no prospect of marriage and of creating a family of their own later on. Most offences and abuses remain unpunished because the women and girls feel ashamed and are often held responsible for their own suffering. 

To help women and girls who have been exposed to sexual and gender-based violence to cope with these challenges, the project wants to offer both preventive and curative measures. These are intended to improve their situation in the long term and enable them to live in dignity. Caritas Switzerland cooperates in this project with the local implementation partner WAAPO (Women's Action Advocacy Progress Organisation). WAAPO is the only local non-governmental organisation that offers comprehensive protective measures for SGBV survivors.


What are we doing?

On the one hand, the project is intended for SGBV survivors with the aim of offering them a safe refuge via women’s shelters  in Hargeisa, Burco und Borama. In the  women’s shelters, comprehensive services such as medical first aid, decent accommodation with board, and psycho-therapeutic support are available. In addition, the women can learn to read and write, or learn a trade and thus gain some independence.

On the other hand, the aim is also to approach traditional support systems such as clans, so that further acts of violence and abuse against women and girls can be prevented in the future. Government agencies, such as representatives of the Ministry of Social Affairs or the police, will also be offered further training: This includes awareness-raising campaigns about SGBV, training for police officers on how to treat SGBV survivors, and possibilities of prevention. 

Furthermore, the project targets female students in order to make them aware of SGBV and of women’s rights. In discussion groups, female students are to be encouraged to recognise and fight all forms of SGBV, so that in future, they can act as role models both in the private and the political sphere. The project reaches more than 6,000 direct beneficiaries, and approximately 20,000 indirect beneficiaries.  
Sexual and gender-based violence is widespread in Somaliland, although most cases are not reported. Currently, WAAPO has to turn away on average 15 women a month because the three women’s shelters have reached the limit of their capacity. Against this background, Caritas Switzerland wants to enter into a long-term partnership with WAAPO in order to be able to extend the protection services for SGBV survivors and to support WAAPO in its work as the local first responder.


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