Kaltumo Abikar (not her real name) has been raped on two separate occasions this year while seeking domestic work in houses in Mogadishu.
The single mother of six, who lives in Dan iyo Da’ad camp, has been displaced for 10 years. As the sole provider for her family, she takes on casual work washing clothes.
Kaltumo descried to Radio Ergo’s local reporter how she left home looking for work one morning in January and met a man in the suburbs of Mogadishu, who told her that he was looking for someone to wash his clothes at his house.
She accepted the job offer and went with the man to his home, where he raped her. Kaltumo was pregnant at the time.
“I got into his car to drive to his house but instead of going there he drove towards the bush and then stopped and told me he wanted me, he didn’t want his clothes washed,” said Kaltumo.
She struggled and pleaded with the man to no effect. “He told me to keep quiet and he did what he wanted,” she said.
Two months later, when she was eight months into her pregnancy, she was raped again in Odweyne neighbourhood whilst looking for work.
“A man opened the door and told me he wanted someone to wash his clothes. He told me to come in to negotiate with him over the price, but when I went in he closed the door behind me and told me he wanted me. I tried to resist but he raped me,” Kaltumo said.
Kaltumo says she did not report the incident to the authorities as she did not think anyone would listen to her story and did not believe she would not get any justice.
“I feared I would be insulted and accused of being the cause of it,” she said.
Another victim, Ruqiyo Hamud (not her real name), who lives in the same camp as Kaltumo, described to Radio Ergo how she was raped at gunpoint two years ago by a man she was working for.
“I was washing clothes for him. He came up from behind and forced me. He had a gun in his house and he was pointing it at me, telling me to comply. So what could I do?” said Ruqiyo.
Ruqiyo’s family were farmers living in Qoryooley on Lower Shabelle region. When conflict erupted in the town in which her son was killed they fled to Mogadishu. She now takes care of her grandchildren.
Maryan Taqal Hussein, a human rights worker with the local NGO, Somali Women’s Development Centre (SWDC), confirmed that there were many cases of rape affecting displaced women in the camps in Mogadishu.
These women, often the only income earners for families, are forced to go out alone looking for work and are vulnerable to exploitation in many ways.
Maryan said women in the camps also face bullying, exploitation and false allegations of theft by domestic employers. Women are frequently denied payment after carrying out casual jobs.
According to Maryan, SWDC has filed a number of cases in court on behalf of such women, but the cases are usually dropped as the victims are not able to spend time on court cases that drag on for weeks.
“These women are the breadwinners of their families so it is hard for them take part until the cases are concluded,” she said.