Right to culture: Human rights week in Somalia

Somalia has long been known as a nation of poets and storytellers, a tradition that was passed down through generations. When telling a story, the narrator usually begins with sheekoy sheeko, sheeko xariir, meaning ‘story story, beautiful story’.

Somali poetry, songs and proverbs are the avenues through which language and culture were transmitted orally and historical events, stories, customs, lineage and customary laws passed on. Language was used for humour, puns, word play and poetry or songs were used for courting, political rhetoric, and expression of life.

Your culture is your right

According to article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts...”

Hargeisa International Book Fair has been celebrating literature, poetry, film, music and theater since 2008. Jama Musse Jama established the event to promote the culture of reading and writing and to ensure the survival of Somaliland's rich oral tradition. Because of the Hargeisa Book Fair, July is now known as the month of literary enlightenment.

Oxfam supports the Hargeisa Book Fair and the 2012 edition is undoubtedly the biggest one to date. When it first started in 2008, it was a two-day affair with 2 panels and about 100 books on display. But it has grown to span seven days with numerous panels, books and attendees.

Related links

Oxfam's work in Somalia

Three reasons to celebrate Human Rights Day (Oxfam America)

Oxfam's commitment to human rights

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