Pursuing Justice for Youth in Somalia

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Goldin Global Fellow '18

My country, Somalia, is going through election processes right now. Although this process was marred by violence in the past, I am hopeful that it will be peaceful this time.

The tension experienced in connection to the election isn’t our only major concern. The recent significant flash floods and challenges imposed by COVID-19 have also limited our progress as a country. In the face of all of this, I have continued to work hard for the welfare of children and youth, both at my workplace and in various voluntary initiatives.

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In my role as the attorney for the Juvenile Justice Program at the Ministry of Justice, I have been contributing to the process of creating an informal juvenile legal system. In 2015, Somalia ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), and the country is now enacting domestic laws in alignment with the principles and guidelines of this convention.

Our team has been pushing for a juvenile legal system which understands the unique vulnerability of children, protects their rights, and aims to reintegrate them into society with a reconstructive attitude to avoid them getting into conflict with the law again.

Along with the creation and strengthening of formal justice systems, we are also contributing to building a strong informal community-based institution which can facilitate rehabilitation and reintegration of children who are in conflict with the law. A noticeable example is the alternation dispute resolution centers which will allow police officers to divert children in conflict with the law from a formal legal system to the informal Alternative Dispute Mechanism centers. These centers adopt community-based conflict and resolution practices which seek to prevent children from coming into contact with the law by continually educating parents and members of the community about their responsibility in protecting children from unlawful conducts.

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The Alternative Dispute Mechanism process is not about who is right and who is wrong, but rather about effective mediation to achieve social harmony between conflicting parties.

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The centers are made up of important community actors such as paralegals, women groups, religious leaders, and traditional elders, and work towards not only sorting out the case and seeking compromise but also support children in other ways, such as offering counselling, monitoring behavioral change, and reintegrating them into society as valuable community members.

Alongside this, I have recently co-founded a law firm “Tayo Law Firm and Consultancy” together with other partners to help the public with easy access to legal aid. The founding principles of Somali laws indicate that ignorance to law is not an excuse. Yet, there’s a huge gap between the existing written laws and what people know about it. We therefore work to bridge this gap by increasing the knowledge of law to the public.

While doing all of this, I am also supporting a local youth network called “Haldor Forum” where we take an active role in improving social services in the Puntland State of Somalia through research, public talks, youth empowerment and strengthening institutions at grass roots level.

I am so grateful for the Global Fellows experience through the Goldin Institute; it has transformed me into a more curious individual with a desire to learn continuously and serve my community.

As I move forward in my work here in Somalia, I want to continue to learn about systems building with my global peers because for us in East Africa and the Horn of Africa, this is a much-needed skill as our institutions are at formative stages.

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