First lady Michelle Obama, left, and Secretary of State John Kerry, right, honor Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre Executive Director Fartuun Adan of Somalia, with a Secretary of States International Women of Courage Award during a ceremony at the State Department in Washington, Friday, March 8, 2013. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
By Joe Lofaro, Metro Ottawa
Friday, March 22, 2013
Two weeks after she shook hands with First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry at the International Women of Courage Awards in Washington, Fartuun Adan will be recognized again Saturday by the local Somali community.
The Ottawa resident was one of nine women who were honoured by the U.S. State Department on International Women’s Day for their work in ending violence against women.
The award ceremony also recognized, posthumously, Nirbhaya – the 23-year-old Indian woman who died from her injuries after a gang-rape.
The fight against sexual violence against women is what brought Adan to the awards ceremony in the first place. After her husband Elman was assassinated in 1996, she fled Somalia 11 years later with her daughters and settled in Canada.
But in 2010 she returned to her hometown of Mogadishu to continue the work her husband started with the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre. It was then that she noticed and grew tired of authorities sweeping cases of rape under the rug.
She founded Sister Somalia – Mogadishu’s first rape crisis centre for survivors of sexual violence.
“That is when I said someone has to do something. It was very risk and challenge, but I have to stand up and say this is not right,” she told Metro Thursday. “It could be anybody who has gun because it’s no rule of law.”
Her three daughters feared for her safety in Somalia, but Adan felt compelled to give these women a voice when no one else would.
Speaking up on March 8, however, was rather difficult for her. She never thought she would ever share her story with First Lady and the Secretary of State who praised her for “never losing hope for a peaceful Somalia.”
“I couldn’t even speak. I did my best, but I was really nervous,” said Adan.
“I talked the way I know, the work we’re doing it. Also I was speaking on behalf of the women who was raped,” she added, getting choked up over the phone. “But it was great to see Michelle Obama. She’s nice, and pretty, and tall.”
On Saturday, the Somali Women’s Circle Network is holding an event which will recognize Adan’s work for the Somali people.
Source: Metro Ottawa