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Attention to land and women’s rights is crucial for Somalia’s stability

A lack of access to land, housing and property, and a lack of women’s empowerment are the two main drivers hampering efforts towards finding durable solutions for displaced communities in and outside Somalia.

The report identifies challenges faced by displaced women living in urban settlements in exercising their rights to access housing, land and property.

“Competition for land and other natural resources are the most significant factors fuelling past conflict and current instability,” warned Gabriella Waaijman, NRC’s Regional Director in the Horn of Africa.

The report identifies women being more affected by housing, land and property violations compared to men. “Women are the mainstays of the family unit in Somali tradition, and collectively they play a significant role in contributing towards a stable society,” Waaijman said.

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The study reveals that while there are initiatives supporting women’s rights to housing, land and property, many barriers exist, especially those relating to Somali norms regarding the balance of power between men and women. “Discriminatory customs have been used to deny women inheritance and divorce rights available to them under Sharia law, often casting aspersions on a woman’s character if she seeks to claim them,” explained Waaijman. “Furthermore, some women have reported that access to non-customary justice mechanisms have been blocked if elders did not support the case,” continued Waaijman. “We need safe spaces where women can have their voices heard in claims to land, housing and property.”

The report highlights the importance of linking humanitarian action and development initiatives. It is important that all actors working on Somalia’s stabilization and reconstruction understand the social dynamics around women’s role in society, and respond accordingly. Displaced women’s housing, land and property rights must be addressed given their specific vulnerabilities and help strengthen their resilienc

The report points to Somalia’s National Development Plan process as providing an opportunity to institutionalise housing, land and property rights, and secure durable solutions for displaced communities. “The voices of displaced people must be included in the forums where housing and land issues are discussed. Displaced women are sorely lacking in these spaces to speak and access decisionmakers who are willing to listen,” said Waaijman.

For more information contact Evelyn Aero, Regional ICLA Adviser (

More about NRC Somalia here.