Friday, September 27, 2013

We're Expanding!


It's a very exciting time for us!  Because of the incredible support we're receiving from all of you, we are expanding and streamlining our Letters initiative.  We are truly grateful to you and hope you continue to join us on this wonderful journey, sharing your letters to our sisters in Somalia, sending them your words of love and encouragement.  We would also love to keep receiving your posts containing articles, your thoughts or your personal experiences with Somalia.  

All letters, responses and "Her Stories" will now be found on our Atma Letters blog, our Facebook Page and Twitter. Please "Like" us, post your letter to a sister and we will send it forward. Within a month we will post a response.  This, we hope, will bridge your world with hers.

Again, we thank you for making this all possible!

~The Atma Letters Team

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


2012 saw the rebirth of Mogadishu and the first ever TEDx event in Somalia. In 2013, we will reflect on the past, present and future, exploring the ideas, innovations and traditions that once built and will again rebuild this country. Peace has continued to take hold, children are playing in the streets, and the beaches are filled with weekend swimmers. A parliament has been formed, constitution approved, and a new cabinet of ministers is leading Somalia back onto the international stage. Every day that goes by is a historic day, and TEDxMogadishu will highlight the incredible voices that have fought against all odds to make this possible.

It is time to rediscover Somalia.

To learn more, visit TEDxMogadishu

Monday, August 26, 2013

Genocide: Worse Than War

Worse Than War documents Goldhagen’s travels, teachings, and interviews in nine countries around the world, bringing viewers on an unprecedented journey of insight and analysis.

With his first book, the #1 international bestseller Hitler’s Willing Executioners (Vintage, 1997) Daniel Jonah Goldhagen – then a professor of political science at Harvard University – forced the world to re-think some of its most deeply-held beliefs about the Holocaust.

Hitler’s Willing Executioners inspired an unprecedented worldwide discussion and debate about the role ordinary Germans played in the annihilation of Europe’s Jews.

A decade later – and more than half a century after the end of World War II – Goldhagen is convinced that the overall phenomenon of genocide is as poorly understood as the Holocaust had once been.

How and why do genocides start? Why do the perpetrators kill? Why has intervention rarely occurred in a timely manner? These and other thought-provoking questions are explored in a new documentary film, Worse Than War.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ilwad Elman - Changing the Discussion On Rape In Africa

When nineteen year old Ilwad Elman boarded a plane three years ago to visit her mother in Mogadishu she had no idea she wouldn’t be returning. After years of listening to bombs exploding on the other end of the phone, she worried constantly about her mother, Fartun Adan, who had returned to Somalia years earlier to carry on with the work of Ilwad’s late father, the legendary peace activist, Elman Ali Ahmed.  Ilwad booked her flight, packed her bags and left her comfortable life in Ottawa, Canada with the expectation of returning a few weeks later to continue her education. Little did she know that seeing her mother’s work first hand and meeting the women and girls at the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre her life would change forever and she would stay in Mogadishu to pick up the mantle of activism her parents had carried for years.

By helping her mother build Sister Somalia, Ilwad’s efforts have enabled Somali women and girls to reclaim their lives as survivors of sexual assault. Every day she meets women, often her own age, who are dealing with the aftermath of horrific crimes with no hope of justice. Some are in danger of re-attack, others are contemplating suicide, and many need medical attention. She offers them her own strength and courage while holding back her own tears. Through the innovative programs she has created, Ilwad helps these women to reconnect with their bodies and to feel in control of their destiny, possibly for the very first time. She has educated the most vulnerable members of her society and designed and implemented projects that deliver alternative livelihood opportunities. Young and old alike have come to rely on her guidance and look to her as a role model.

With a focus on ending the epidemic of gender based violence, Ilwad has become a spokesperson for equality and justice for women in Somalia. She has brought the issue of sexual assault to the forefront of political discussions as the Co-Chair of the Child Protection Working Group  alongside UNICEF and as a chairman for the Gender Based violence Case Management Group. Recently, she appeared on the prestigious program TedX Mogadishu to explain the role of Sister Somalia in the country’s rebuilding efforts. On March 8, 2011, Ilwad garnered media attention when she represented Somalia during a climb up Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro alongside 76 other activists from 36 African countries. Together they pledged their commitment to end Violence Against Women and Girls for the “Climb Up, Speak OUT” campaign by UNite Africa under UNwomen.  Her actions are bringing awareness to gender based violence across Somalia and are adding pressure for policy changes by Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government.

After three years of living and working in Somalia Ilwad still has her frustrations. Sometimes when she is dismissed or her ideas are not prioritized because she is a woman (something she never experienced in the West) she becomes discouraged.  But Ilwad knows that while she always has the option to leave Somalia, the women and girls she helps cannot. She understands that her efforts provide opportunities that will eventually lead to better lives and, ultimately, a better Somalia in the future. It’s this fact, along with the inspiration of her parents’ work, which is at the root of her determination to continue to work for the women and girls of Sister Somalia.

Special thanks to Sister Somalia for sharing Ilwad's story

Monday, August 5, 2013

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Fartuun Adan

Fartuun Abdisalaan Adan is the Director of the Elman Peace and Human Rights Center, Mogadishu, Somalia. She is also a co-founder of Sister Somalia, the first rape crisis center in Mogadishu. 


Fartuun talks to CNN about the events that inspired her to help victims of sexual assault.