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Emergency Trust Fund for Africa
News article14 May 2024Directorate-General for International Partnerships4 min read

Empowering women for peace: Ubah Hassan's journey in Barwaqo, Galmudug, Somalia

On the occasion of the International Day of Living Together in Peace, the story focuses on Ubah Hassan, the Chief Administrator of Barwaqo, local authority in Galmudug state of Somalia. 

Ubah Hassan addressing women in her saving group ©Elman Peace/Zamzam Ahmed
Ubah Hassan addressing women in her saving group ©Elman Peace/Zamzam Ahmed

The story focuses on Ubah Hassan, the Chief Administrator of Barwaqo, local authority in Galmudug state of Somalia. Her journey is a testament to the transformative impact  of women in conflict-affected areas.  Despite the adversity, Ubah, a resilient mother of five children, has emerged as a beacon of hope, inspiring her community and challenging the status quo. Her relentless work in countering violent extremism and promoting peace demonstrates her profound commitment to change. This story sheds light on Ubah's journey, highlighting the transformative impact that empowered women can bring to their communities and the imperative role they play in fostering enduring peace.

The village of Barwaqo in Galmudug, Somalia, grapples with the persistent challenges from violent extremism. Despite being under government control for a decade, the lingering influence of groups like Al-Shabaab continues to pose threats, particularly targeting vulnerable groups such as women traders and youth. Women are forced to pay 'taxes,' and coerced into serving as spies for extremist groups, while the youth are particularly susceptible to their recruiting tactics. Amidst these daunting  challenges, Ubah Hassan, the Chief Administrator of Barwaqo, remains resolute, stating that she couldn’t stand idle while youth were being drawn into extremist groups. She was committed to counter violent extremism and promote peace.

In 2020, the EU Trust Fund for Africa financed the project "Strength Through Tolerance"  to contribute to an enhanced partnership and a joint approach between the government and communities in order to address factors driving violent extremism.


Who is Ubah?

Ubah Hassan, is a 53-year-old entrepreneur from Barwaqo in Somalia's Galmudug region. In 2020 she became increasingly concerned, about the recruitment of children in her community by the extremist group, Al-Shabaab. As a mother of five children, Ubah couldn't bear to witness more young lives lost to extremism. 

"By involving women in countering extremism discussions, we shape the mindset of our children and husbands, fostering a more peaceful society.” – said Ubah Hassan

Determined to take action, she shared her worries with the women in her local savings group—a supportive network of traders. Recognizing the urgent need to protect their community's children, Ubah proposed establishing a women's savings group dedicated to countering extremist narratives. 

"By empowering women and promoting gender equality, we can build a more resilient and peaceful society" Ubah asserted, highlighting the transformative power of gender inclusion.

The women wholeheartedly embraced Ubah's vision, embarking on a mission to develop and disseminate counter-messages that would reach vulnerable youth and the wider community through poems, traditional dances and plays. Barwaqo, under government control for a decade, had been a focal point in the counter-insurgency operations led by the government in Galmudug since 2022. Despite the village's stability, Al-Shabaab's influence lingered, targeting vulnerable groups like women traders and the youth. Women traders were blackmailed to pay 'Zakawat-Tax,' and women were coerced into spying for the group. The youth remained highly susceptible to Al-Shabaab's coercion, making Barwaqo a community facing significant challenges.


The activities carried out in the fight against extremism and empowering women in Somalia 

Despite facing resistance due to the fear of reprisals, Ubah remained undeterred, in her efforts to counter violent extremism. Recognizing the need for external assistance, she reached out to civil society actors within the conflict transformation space, seeking guidance and resources. Ubah became involved with Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) platforms co-facilitated by the Galmudug Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development and Elman Peace Centre through the Strength Through Tolerance project. These platforms provided a safe space for women from different sectors to engage in a meaningful dialogue. Through these connections, Ubah found inspiration and support, reinforcing her commitment to the cause.

Ubah’s dedication led her to with the Ministry of Women and Human Rights. She was eventually appointed as the head of the Office of Coordination for Women's Rights Organizations (WRO),where she helped coordinating and strengthening the efforts of various women's rights organizations.

"My journey has taught me that collective action is the key to countering violent extremism. We must unite and support one another," Ubah emphasized, drawing upon her experiences.

Inspired by her experience, Ubah founded a local community-level organization called Samakal Development, that cateres to the members of her original savings group and  Horyal Special Care, a center for traumatized children. 

Her leadership and community involvement inspired other women to take on leadership roles, breaking gender barriers and promoting equality. In recognition of her exceptional dedication, Ubah was appointed as the Chief Administrator of Barwaqo, earning trust and respect from her community. Today, Barwaqo is a model of gender equality and women's empowerment in Somalia. Ubah's commitment has encouraged greater participation of women in the police and military, contributing to the community's resilience and stability. While challenges remain, Ubah's legacy is a beacon of hope, inspiring others to join the fight for peace, equality, and the protection of vulnerable youth in Barwaqo and beyond.


Publication date
14 May 2024
Directorate-General for International Partnerships
Region and Country
  • Horn of Africa
  • Somalia
  • Improved governance and conflict prevention
  • Strengthening resilience of communities
  • Elman Peace Centre

Programmes in the region

The action aims to enhance the ability of women and children in the States of Red Sea, Kassala and Gedaref to lead socially and economically productive lives, and in doing so strengthen their resilience and that of their communities.