“Equality and justice for all”. Nothing less, nothing more. That is the slogan Marginalized Communities Activists (MCA*) chose for their campaign after a 2-day training workshop on media strategy and engagement organized by the Human Rights and Protection Group (HRPG) with the Strategic Communications and Public Affairs Group (SCPAG) of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM).
The training held from 9-10 October 2019 in Mogadishu with six members of MCA, including two women, aimed to create deeper public understanding on the rights of marginalized communities in Somalia and to encourage governments and civil society organizations to advocate for minorities rights and to build effective policies and strategies.
Minorities excluded from political participation, employment and access to justice
Somali society is characterized by clan-based divisions, inequalities and exclusions in which minority groups and smaller clans face discrimination and struggle to exercise their rights to participate in economic, social, cultural and political processes.
Marginalization leads to unfair and discriminatory distribution of resources, and several protection concerns. “The clan structure continues to exclude minorities from political participation, employment and access to justice”, noted one of the marginalized communities’ activist who participated in the workshop.
“It denies them their rights to development and education, and it punishes inter-marriage with member of majority groups,” the activist added.
Improving opportunities for marginalized communities or groups to participate in public life can have a positive effect when it comes to conflict-prevention. That is the approach adopted by UNSOM HRPG and why it took the opportunity to support this media campaign, which is being implemented under the framework of its technical assistance and capacity-building to civil society project.
“There is no single program in the media that reflects our problems” deplored the activist.
Radio, the most effective tool to advocate for the inclusion
As Muna Abuagla from UNSOM Human Rights and Protection Group points out, media can be used to educate the public about the equal and inalienable rights every human being possesses and “it also can encourage society's respect for the diversity and contribute to integration of minorities in Somali communities.”
“Media is the only source of the voiceless communities” according to the MCA network. During a meeting organized by HRPG with Marginalized Communities Advocates, journalists and media professionals on 30 September 2019, participants noted that radio (along with TV) was the best medium to serve their interest and reflect the advantages and difficulties such as equal access and equality and non-discrimination in line with international human rights standards and decided to invest in radio mainly.
The two months media campaign will be launched on 15 November 2019 and will target the major radio stations in Somalia including Kulmiye (Mogadishu), Radio Baidoa, Radio Kismayo, Radio Jowhar, Radio Beletweyne, Radio Risala, Mogadishu, Radio Galkacyo, SBC radio in Bossaso. The campaign also targeting two TV stations, SNT and Horn cable TV and social media (Facebook, WhatsApp and twitter).
The 15 minute radio sessions will cover topics such as equality and non-discrimination, political participation, women empowerment, equal access to education, health, employment and economic activity, social and cultural rights. The last five minutes of each programme will be dedicated to calls from the general public.
Expectations for this media campaign are high. For Marginalized Communities, it is about their challenges, needs and desires being understood by politicians and communities within and across Somalia at large, and the realization of their fundamental rights.
For HRPG, it is not only about improving the level of awareness and understanding and protection of rights of minorities through media campaign, but also holding the government accountable and ensuring that they put in place effective policies and strategies to eliminate discrimination and enhance the protection of minorities in Somalia.
*MCA is a network established by individuals from Somali minority communities in 2006 that advocates for social and political inclusion for marginalized and minorities, including internally displaced persons, across Somalia. MCA also leads the Minority and marginalized cluster of UNSOM HRPG.
11 November 2019