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Spotlight on
Gender Violence

Echoes of Empowerment: Narratives of Strength from Somali Women

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Image by Oladimeji Odunsi

Sharing Stories for healing

16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based VIolence 


In 2021, I worked with the Living Refugee Archive and Naima Ismail, Founder of the Somali Women’s Association in Malaysia, to support Somali refugee women to tell their Gender-Based Violence (GBV) stories. Naima Ismail interviewed women and discussed images they felt best represented themselves and their stories. Between 25th November and 10th December 2021 for the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, we published one paragraph and one image story to highlight the experiences of Somali Women. 


Read the Stories Below

Image by Jackson David

Barkhado's Story


I was forced to marry an old man. I had two sisters, my father passed away and my mother was the only one feeding us. My uncles brainwashed my mother by offering her money to marry me off that old man. I was only 14-year-old when I was married to him. I had not even received my period until the two months I spent with him. Every single night he used to rape me. As he was older and stronger than me, I bled every time. He locked me inside the house, so I couldn’t escape and complain to my mother and uncles. Every night I used to beg him loudly to spare me in the nights during sexual intercourse. A few of my neighbours informed my mother of the screams in the middle of the night. My mother visited me and to her surprise, she saw me in bed with streams of blood gushed from all over the bed. I was immediately taken to hospital. I was prescribed medication, however, it wasn’t that helpful as the bleeding didn’t stop. I was in bed for almost two years feeling pain. I was traumatized; feeling fear, shame, anger and hopelessness. I was devastated. I spent my days in and out of having suicidal ideation. My husband disappeared when I was taken to hospital. A few years have now passed but the pain never stops. I was taken to the hospital until I ended up having my uterus removed at the age of 21. I couldn’t bear to be a burden to my mother. She feels guilty for what happened to me. Along with this, my society’s judgment and the shame they placed on me increased so drastically that I had to leave. I sought peace and protection somewhere far. I eventually arrived in Malaysia in 2017 where currently I am an asylum seeker.

What image represents you?

I think a pencil, which helped me write down all my story. I remember the pain during the hardest times. At first, I used to shake, have trauma and flashbacks. I would cry tears from the devastation in my life. However, I wanted to confront those feelings in me and thought ‘instead of living my story with bitterness, let’s use this pain better to make me stronger and change my life in another way!’. Writing and journaling those single steps during those years gave me the light and the courage to finally share and open up to the ones I trust. My tears shed on every single word I write down, but I could say I am overcoming to live normally. And, all I want now is to share my story with the world.

Image by Jen P.

Work History

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