Naima is a Law and Sharia graduate from Mogadishu University’s campus in the commercial city of Bossaso. Following her training as a lawyer, she worked as a journalist and she also chose to specialize in defending human rights and advocated for the establishment of a womens unit in the police department to handle women issues. Naima says: “As a human right defender, I know and believe that when we work together with the police and the local administration, the community moves ahead as a one unit. That is why we are very eager in working with the police through the community-police mechanism. This has helped us support many women and children who have been mistreated through the community-police unit and the courts.”
Naima added: “With my knowledge of law, I choose to speak for the voiceless through advocating for a womens police unit and re-engineering of the working relationship between the police and the community. With the help of the community police training, the police now have a better understanding of what the community needs and we are working towards building on the good start we have so far. As a society, it is important to know that whatever we choose has a consequence. I choose to stand for the women in Puntland, to help ensure every girl gets education, feel secure as she goes around her daily life like everyone and all her rights are protected.
What motivate me to do this work of defending the voiceless is when I see a mistreated person, especially women, get justice and are very happy, and when I see the police willingly and diligently provide support to victims of mistreatment, when I see the weak in our society feel empowered and protected by the laws of the land, that is what motivates me to wake up every day and support the voiceless within our community. This would have not been possible without the help of OPHRD’s training to the police which has equipped them with the necessary skills to handle these cases and provide professional support to victims of injustice.”
Farax Mumin Yusuf tells us:
“Working to defend the rights of women and children in Somalia is a tough job. Before many people did not understand a lot about human rights and especially women rights issues. But with the SSF funded project, we were able to reach diverse stakeholders in the society and train them on human rights. Fortunately, we have a whole dedicated unit in the police force that is the community-police section.”
“As a dedicated gender specialist, I feel very proud to be working side by side with the community and our policemen and women. This has given us a good platform to help our women who are mistreated. The community police act as bridge between the community and the justice system for those who are mistreated especially women who we fight for their rights.
Among my happiest moments is seeing our women very happy and confident to speak up whenever they come to report their case. This has been enabled by the training that was provided through OPHRD with the support of SSF. Seeing our police office in the frontline of ensuring equality for all in Puntland motivates me to increase my efforts as gender officer in this project. For the last four years, together with our community-police members, I have been working on this project and I feel proud seeing the police with all the necessary training for them to handle gender issues with required level of carefulness. I can proudly report that, the friendliness of the members of the community police initiative have significantly improved the relationship between the community and the administration.”
Fartun is a community member who was part of the community-police initiative which aims to bridge the gap between the police and the community and generally improve the relationship between the government and the community. Fartun tells us: “As a member of the community-police initiative, I was privileged to take part in a training to improve my knowledge about how the police work and how to prevent and respond to gender-based violence in the society. This has improved my knowledge on how to identify early signs of trouble and prevent issues before situations get worse.”
Fartun continued to state:
“With the good relationship between us, the community members and the police, we act as the bridge between the police and any member of the community who has an issue. Our work is to help victims understand that the police is here to help and serve the community, maintain law and order and ensure no one among us is mistreated or their rights infringed on. Following my training, I am proud and happy to be part of the solution to the problems that we are facing as a society rather than be part of the problem. To say the least, I am very proud to see many people among our communities seeking justice through the government agencies instead of taking issues into their own hands. Seeing this development makes me a proud community activist and strive for a better future.”
The media is an important tool promoting human rights in our society. In Puntland, the office of Puntland human rights defenders has engaged members of the media in order to get their support. The aim is to enhance fair and balanced reporting in cases involving discrimination, unjust practices against minorities, women, children and communities that live in internally displaced camps in major cities in Puntland. Journalists have been trained in reporting human right stories for instance, to ensure the privacy of victims is protected as they seek justice.
Awil Ali Jamaac is a radio journalist who was trained on human rights with the office of Puntland human rights defenders. Awil Ali Jamaac states:
“Promoting human rights is vital for the wellbeing of the society and as a practicing journalist it is very important for us to make sure we promote and uphold human rights in our platform. We as journalists are required to be cautious of human right issues and ensure that we promote high standards of human rights amongst our society. Our role is to educate the public of the importance of working with the police in order to solve issues amongst ourselves instead of engaging in violence in trying to resolve our differences.
I never thought that armed with my recorder, pen and paper I could achieve justice for the weak in my society as much as I do after training with the office of Puntland human rights defenders. The media is an important platform to achieve fairness and justice in our society, this kind of training has helped us connect the importance of a working relationship between the local communities, the media and the administration led by the police force in case of human rights violation.
Following my training on human rights reporting, I pledge to be a voice for the good, promote fairness and justice amongst our communities and condemn human rights violators. This will help improve tighten the fabrics in our communities and make us a vibrant society that thrives. But before that, we should all be agents of good, fairness and just to all.”
More than 500 community members and police officers took part in the community-police training exercise aimed at improving the working relationship between communities and police, and aimed at boosting the confidence of the local community in Puntland. This initiative had a great impact on building a bridge between the communities and police and improving community security and safety in major cities across Puntland state.
Col. Abdirizaq Ismail Hassan. Community Police Unit Commander in Puntland says:
“Through Office of Puntland Human Rights Defenders, we have seen for the first time in history an initiative that worked towards the establishment of the community police unit, that specializes in the training of police officers together with community members and also establishing a community police committee in all the districts. The trainings offered by the OPHRD and the establishment of the community-police committee has seen for the first time, the police force working in close collaboration with the community to prevent and solve crime in our districts.
As a senior police officer who has been in service for many years, I can confidently say that this initiative has greatly improved the rapport between the police and the community, and thereby significantly reduced petty crimes in our major cities because now the community members through the established channels can confidently report cases and offenders to the police. The training was designed in such a way that it connects the missing links between the police and the community as well as creating a working synergy between the force and the people. This has led to the birth of a new era whereby the police and the community are working together to prevent crime as well as resolve issues. Even small cases that do not require the attention of the police are solved by the local community-police committee at the village level in order to reduce the workload for the police by using the training mechanism to solve these issues.”
He added “this training has significantly improved community safety since community members are now more aware of their responsibility as the primary agents of law and order and not leave security matters as the work of the police force”
Mohamed Ahmed Haji is a community peace committee member and he is also a member of the community-police committee in Bossaso. Mohamed represents the Internally displaced persons in Bossaso city. Mohamed told us his views about the training by the Office of Puntland Human rights defenders and the community-police initiative. Mohamed said:
“It is very rare to see an internally displaced community member been involved in security issues or been invited for this type of training however, this initiative has incorporated all the sectors of the community in the security of this city. To start with this has given us a confidence since it is considering all of us as important members for the society wellbeing.”
He added by saying:
“following the construction of the new police station in Bossaso, service delivery has improved in the station, the police commander engages the committee members from various IDP camps whenever there is a case from the localities and we help each other to make sure the safety and the security of our people is priority number one. With the current set up and arrangement through the community police initiative, service delivery to the IDP community is a phone call away since there is a good understanding and relationship between us and the police.
Before many people, especially from the IDP camps were scared to report anything or seek justice. But following the trainings given to us and the establishment of the community-police committee that work with the police units, the public have come forward in order to report their case through the committee as well as directly and were helped in the process. As a community in the Internally displaced camps in Bossaso we are very confident that the community police initiative is working very well and has improve the work and relationship between the people and the police and thereby improved the security and safety of the city of Bossaso.”