Kenyan Woman Gives Hope to Refugees and other Victims of Gender Based Violence
A prominent advocate for the empowerment of women, Mama Lul supports both Kenyan and refugee women and champions for an end to sexual exploitation and abuse
A prominent advocate for the empowerment of women, 68 year old, Lul Issack Ali, a Kenyan of Somali decent supports both Kenyan and refugee women and champions for an end to sexual exploitation and abuse ©UNHCR/Caroline Opile
A prominent advocate for the empowerment of women, Mama Lul supports both Kenyan and refugee women and champions for an end to sexual exploitation and abuse of women mainly in Eastleigh and other low income areas in Nairobi, where most women are exposed to domestic and sexual violence.
68 year old, Lul Issack Ali, a Kenyan of Somali decent busies herself at her retail shop in Eastleigh estate in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. The jovial ‘Mama Lul’ as she is fondly referred to by neighbors is a woman with a big heart, having converted her home into a drop in center for victims of sexual and gender based violence. Through word of mouth, many victims of abuse troop to her home early every day to seek for help.
“I am a mother of many, I assist anyone who comes to me without asking where they come from, what matters is to put a smile in someone’s face,” Lul says.
25 year old Shamsi Omar from Ethiopia is a first time visitor at the center. She is a victim of SGBV and is economically challenged. She hawks tea is Eastleigh to survive but her daily income of $2 (KES 200) is not enough. Speaking in fluent Oromo language, Mama Lul, advises Shamsi to join the other survivors and be part of a saving group, where they learn table banking, food banking as well as benefit from group therapy.
At the corner of the room, Saudi Hassan Ibrahim, 34 year old mother of seven children sits quietly, waiting for an opportunity to share her problem with to Mama Lul, the Executive Director of Umma Community Based Organization which was founded in 2006. Saudi, fled Somalia in 2009 and found a home in Eastleigh, in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. She has been visiting the facility for the last eight years, and has been exposed to various GBV and livelihood trainings.
“Mama Lul has done so much for me, and I know she can advocate for me to find needed assistance through her networks. Currently, I am a volunteer campaigner – saying no to violence against women and female genital mutilation,” Saudi remarks.
On the sidelines, Saudia earns a living from selling snacks that she bakes at home, a skill she learnt from livelihood training from one of the UNHCR partners. She is now self- reliant.
The interventions to Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) survivors integrates community based approaches and survivor center approach
For the 16 days of activism campaign themed ‘End Gender-Based Violence in the World of Work’ beginning on 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women), she will be busy championing calls to end violence against women like her and many others that she meets at Umma CBO.
“Mama Lul has done a lot for the refugees even without UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR support. The interventions to Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) survivors integrates community based approaches and survivor center approach,” Karen Kotut, Senior Protection Associate in UNHCR explains.
Sexual and gender based violence is a taboo subject in some communities, but Lul takes it all in her stride because she noted that many girls especially from the Somali community were stigmatized and ostracized when they reported cases of sexual abuse. “Such cases are often addressed in traditional family meetings that deny the victims justice,” Lul explains.
A jovial ‘Mama Lul’ as she is fondly referred to by neighbours is a woman with a big heart, having converted her home into a drop in center for victims of sexual and gender based violence. ©UNHCR/Caroline Opile
Mama Lul is a peace agent in Eastleigh in Nairobi, Kenya where she champions for peaceful existence especiallyl among people of different faiths and backgrounds. She is participating in a survey in a project that she is involved in. ©UNHCR/Caroline Opile
Amina Ali Hassan is a Kenyan SGBV survivor that Mama Lul has helped to be self-reliant. Through trainings on savings and business management, she has established a small restaurant where she earns at least $3 (ksh 300) per day a living. The 32 year old is full of praise for Mama Lul as a women who gave her back her dignity, and is now able to support her two children. Amina says, “There is life after GBV, all we need encouragement and determination to be the best in what your hand finds to do”.
Lul Issack Ali, a mother of 12 established the Umma Community Based Organization, with the objective of providing care and support to families especially women that were infected with HIV/AIDS. As she did her home visits, she realized that many women and children were victims of sexual and gender based violence. With that realization, she began to assist abused women and children to access medical care, legal counsel and psycho social support.
“I utilize the networks I have to refer clients so that they can get the much needed professional help. Many cases that I handle touch on survival sex, wife inheritance, rape, defilements and domestic violence, “she explains.
On average, she attends to more than 300 women per month, with 60 per cent of them being victims of gender based violence.
“In line with the new approach of refugee management, Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, it is important that UNHCR supports community based initiatives like Umma CBO to ensure sustainability and community participation in Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) prevention, mitigation and response,” Karen says.