Somaliland is a self-declared autonomous region located in northern Somalia. Its population is 4.2 million, with approximately a quarter, or 1.2 million people, living in the capital city of Hargeisa.
Somaliland is one of the least developed areas in the world, plagued by extreme poverty and weather-related phenomena such as droughts exacerbated by climate change.
ISF works against female genital mutilation and domestic violence in Somaliland, while also promoting women’s livelihoods.
of Somaliland women (aged 15-49) have experienced sexual or physical violence.
of Somaliland women have a shortage of food.
of women are married before the age of 20.
The Republic of Somalia was established in 1960 when the Somali territories under British and Italian rule merged. As a result of the civil war, Somaliland declared itself separate from Somalia in 1991. However, no country has officially recognized Somaliland as an independent state. Therefore, Somaliland remains dependent on the overall development and peacebuilding of Somalia.
Somaliland is one of the least economically developed areas in the world. Up to 65% of its population derives their income from pastoralism, which forms the basis of the region’s economy.1 In addition to livestock production, including camels, cows, and goats, Somaliland also produces millet, maize, fruits, vegetables, and frankincense. Somaliland families are largely dependent on self-produced food, so fluctuations in harvests directly affect their food security.
Another significant pillar of the economy is remittances from abroad: many Somalis fled to neighboring countries and Europe in the 1990s during the civil war and later due to economic hardship and one of the highest unemployment rates in the world. Once in Europe, they support their families back home by sending money. The funds sent by the diaspora have been used to build schools and hospitals, as well as improve road maintenance, among other things.
The status of women and girls in Somaliland is extremely weak. Although the constitution of Somaliland guarantees equal rights for both men and women, this is often not the case in practice. Traditional gender roles and cultural norms prevent women from participating in decision-making and the workforce on equal terms with men.
ISF supports women in raising their voices and addressing difficult issues, challenging rigid gender roles, and reducing violence against women. We create opportunities for women to participate in decision-making and provide them with the keys to independent livelihoods through programs that focus climate change resilience and small business management skills.
Our grassroots attitude change work educates communities about the harms and dangers of female genital mutilation, with the aim of ending this painful tradition.
In our projects:
In Somaliland, the region experiences extreme weather phenomena on an annual basis. The climate crisis particularly affects vulnerable populations living in precarious conditions. Adapting to the consequences of the crisis is most challenging in areas where basic services are limited, and livelihoods depend on natural resources.
The impact of these extreme weather events on the environment is devastating. According to a World Bank study in 2020, up to 27% of the region’s soil is unsuitable for cultivation due to factors like wind and flood erosion4. Drought, tropical storms caused by climate change, the swarms of millions of locusts they bring, as well as wind and flash floods, pose successive challenges to the population of Somaliland:
Climate crisis affects pastoralists and farmers the most, as their livelihoods depend on livestock production and agriculture.8 In the midst of crises, the importance of women’s livelihoods has increased, even though traditionally men have been the primary breadwinners in families. For example, in the informal sector of Hargeisa city, female entrepreneurs reportedly contribute to 60% of the city’s tax revenue.
Adapting to climate change requires collaboration between farmers, experts, and government administration. In Somaliland, the lack of expertise and knowledge hampers adaptation and food production. The region needs its own research to address the problems caused by climate change.
Our work in Somaliland began in 2000, and we are the only Finnish development cooperation organization that has had a permanent office in Somaliland for over 20 years. We collaborate with local experts to address the issues raised by the community.
Todgheer region is named after the Todgheer River that flows during the rainy season. The capital city of the region, Burao, is one of the largest cities in Somaliland. Sanaag, located on the coast, is the other operational area for ISF in Somaliland. Both regions, like the rest of Somaliland and the Horn of Africa, are predominantly inhabited by different Somali clans.
ADO – Agricultural Development Organization (Togdheer and Sanaag regions, Somaliland)ADO is ISF’s long-term partner in improving food security and livelihoods in Somaliland. ADO’s work focuses on agricultural development, promoting ecological solutions, improving water resources and soil quality. Additionally, ADO develops seed production in Somaliland to enhance self-sufficiency.
Y-PEER – Somaliland Youth PEER Education Network (Sanaag region and Burao, Somaliland)The project with Y-PEER aims to engage community leaders, such as religious and political leaders, in ending violence against women and girls. The project also provides training for healthcare and social workers.Awareness among school-aged children regarding girls’ rights and gender equality is strengthened through age-appropriate methods such as poetry, art, and small group activities.
SOYDAVO – Somaliland Youth Development & Voluntary Organization (Sanaag and Togdheer regions, Somaliland)In collaboration with our partner SOYDAVO, a Health and Business training program is developed for women. It includes raising awareness among women and men about the harms of violence against women and methods to resolve intra-family conflicts without violence. Discussions with men focus on increasing women’s economic roles within the family and community. Finding shared solutions involving both women and men is crucial. Most of the women participating in the project live permanently in refugee camps and have fewer opportunities to assert their rights. Some women participating in the training also receive tailored support for entrepreneurship.
BVO – Barwaaqo Voluntary Organization (Todgheer region, Somaliland)BVO focuses on combating gender-based violence against girls and women, with particular emphasis on ending female genital mutilation (FGM). The project also aims to prevent child marriages, domestic violence, and other forms of sexual violence. It develops dialogue between the community and its leaders on the project themes. Additionally, BVO supports the establishment of grassroots committees against FGM and violence.
NAFIS – Network Against FGM/C in Somaliland (Somaliland) NAFIS aims to establish a law prohibiting FGM in Somaliland. NAFIS engages in lobbying with politicians, religious leaders, and creates social pressure through its member organizations to pass the law.
Country Director, Somaliland
Senior GBV Adviser
VAWG Field Coordinator, Somaliland
Livelihood Field Coordinator, Somaliland
Finance and Administration Coordinator, Somaliland