Asha has been awarded the ‘Right Livelihood Award’ in recognition of her “outstanding vision and work on behalf of our planet and its people.” Here is an extract from her moving acceptance speech.
It has been a long journey. My country, Somalia, has been engulfed in Civil War for the past 18 years. In all armed conflicts women and children are the first and last victims of war, though war is neither their desire nor their decision. Women have been killed, raped, tortured and displaced. They have lost their loved ones: brothers, husbands, fathers and children.
I am a living example of those women who paid a huge price. This war was clan-based, and my husband and I are from two different clans. My husband’s clan saw me as a traitor. My clan of birth as an outsider. This caused me much personal pain –being trapped between two different worlds. This moment made me realise that war has nothing to offer women except for death, destruction and devastation.
I had two options. I could allow this anger to drown me, or I could use it as a tool to create something good. I knew there were thousands of women just like me and so I used that pain to create a new identity: the identity of womanhood. Save Somali Women and Children (SSWC ) emerged from this. In Somalia, women have no space in the traditional clan structure. We demanded our rightful space by mounting pressure on clan elders, religious leaders, Islamic Scholars and politicians. We have taken women from the periphery to the negotiating table as equal partners and decision-makers. This award recognises the achievements of all Somali women who take tremendous risks and sacrifices for the quest of peace.
The timing of this award comes at a very precarious time for this nation. Unprecedented and unaccepted crises are taking place. Piracy off the coast of Somalia, never before a part of our culture, has threatened international trade. This award demonstrates that humanity still exists in the desperation that Somalis face. There is courage within the fear.
My involvement for seeking peace and stability by using dialogue has never stopped. The sons and daughters of Somalia have the first responsibility to sort out their differences and think about the fate of their future. We must not wait for solutions offered from outside, but instead offer the civilians the chance to live under a reconciled, peaceful country as dignified citizens. Through this, we can bring Somalia back into the family of nations.
I appeal to the international community. Please continue to respond positively to the ever-growing humanitarian catastrophe in Somalia. The plight of women and children depends on your support.