Accessibility statement

Guleid Osman

Somaliland, CAHR Spring 2012


I am Guleid Osman. I come from Hargeisa, Somaliland where I work for a national NGO called Talowadag. Talowadag was established in early 2006 and it provides care and support services for people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS. Our work is based on service delivery such as home based care, psychosocial and counselling services, support group meetings, livelihood improvement (e.g. generating income sources and nutritional support) and capacity building.

HIV and AIDS are taboo subjects in Somaliland. People do not like to hear information on HIV and AIDS and they do not like to see or interact with people living with HIV (PLHIV). Therefore, PLHIV are not willing to disclose their status and they do not want to seek treatment or support services as they are afraid of discrimination and stigmatization. It is common that both PLHIV and people affected by AIDS are highly stigmatised in and excluded from society. Many of them are abandoned by their families, thrown out of their homes and thus quickly become destitute due to their HIV positive status. Their basic rights are often violated, and this concerns particularly women living with HIV and children orphaned by AIDS.

Many of them are abandoned by their families, thrown out of their homes and thus quickly become destitute due to their HIV positive status.

People with no primary level education as well as low income have significantly higher HIV prevalence in Somaliland. Children orphaned and affected by AIDS have no access to education because when they go to schools, other children as well as neighbours discriminate against them, other children do not want to play with them and often the children throw stones at their houses.

Talowadag does not only support PLHIV and people affected by AIDS but also works to educate the wider community - particularly young people - on how to take responsibility to maintain their health status and how to avoid becoming infected with HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases. Working with religious and traditional leaders in particular has been a successful way of educating the community and spreading positive messages of compassion and support because it addresses the traditional practices and attitudes which have long discriminated against PLHIV and their families.

Finally, I am very grateful to the Centre for Applied Human Rights at the University of York for giving me this opportunity of the protective fellowship. I have learnt and benefited at lot from the Centre’s teaching and expertise. My time at the Centre has enabled me to understand human rights related issues which particularly concern my work and that of my organisation. During the period I was at the Centre I have not only acquired knowledge and skills but also got an opportunity to network with international human rights organisations and create linkages with potential donors which will help the work of my organisation in the future.


Guleid is a human rights defender that aims to protect the rights of people living with HIV (PLHIV), focusing mainly on Somaliland. Before coming to York in 2012 Guleid ran his own NGO, Talowadag, an organisation in Hargeisa providing support for PLHIV, which he since the scheme continues to manage but, he argues, much for effectively.

Whilst at the Centre for Applied Human Rights Guleid studied mechanisms used by human rights defenders that could help overcome the problems he faces, the training workshops he attended particularly focussed on strategic and project management which taught him how to be responsible for the projects he completes and aid the running of Talowadag efficiently. Guleid found his time at York particularly helpful for networking and connection building because it has meant he gained lots of support and knowledge which has allowed him to expand his organisation. He also found that spending 5 months in York helped to greatly improve his grasp of the English language which has facilitated the development of his organisation as well.

I realised that as health issues are human rights and development issues, everyone can demand basic healthcare.

Guleid cherishes the help the Centre gave him in improving his knowledge in three key areas, firstly learning how to incorporate the expectation of basic human rights worldwide into his work. He realised that as health issues are human rights and development issues, everyone can demand basic healthcare. Secondly he learnt about international laws on conflict and states embroiled in conflict, which related very closely to his work in Somaliland as a state recently created out of Somalia and so affected his personal development greatly during his time at CAHR. Finally Guleid appreciates the help the international community can provide for human rights defenders which led to the funding proposal he made for the UNDP and other donors after his return to Somaliland.

Since returning to Somaliland in May 2012 Guleid has been working on projects which aim to generate sources of income and  support for survivors of torture living with HIV and their affected families, who have been stigmatised by society but have the right to equal treatment and an overall better life. He notes that the scheme taught him how to legitimise the work he was doing to the international community, by linking the issues he is combatting back to the idea of basic human rights and how they are undermined. For example Guleid designed a project for the UNDP and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights from the angle that PLHIV were deprived of human rights. As a result hundreds of people have been supported by the proposals and given basic help for transportation, a source of income, and treatment.

In addition to this, with respect to the knowledge he gained from his experience in York, Guleid was nominated by civil society organisations (CSOs) in Somaliland to represent the CSOs to the Global Fund Steering/Oversight Committee, which is a decision making body at a strategic level and composed of the ministries of health in the three zones of Somalia, donors, and UN organisations who are aiming to increase Somalia's ability to fight diseases. This will allow him and CSOs in Somaliland greater exposure and will really help him achieve the aims he set out to achieve.

Guleid and Talowadag are currently mainly focused on Somaliland, and 800 PLHIV registered with his organization are benefiting or have benefitted from the work they do. There are however 3,500 people infected and affected by AIDS who are registered with his organization so his aim is to try to reach each and every one. In the future his aim for Talowadag is to reach as many of these people as possible and keep pushing for the effectiveness and efficiency of him and his team.

Guleid was interviewed by Molly Hood (student, Department of Politics) in June 2014.

Success story

Four months after having left the Protective Fellowship Scheme, in September 2012, Guleid wrote to the Centre saying:

"My organisation, Talowadag Coalition, has recently got a new project on livelihood improvement for people living with HIV from the UNDP Department of Poverty Reduction and Environmental Protection. The project will run for 9 months and 120 people living with HIV are expected to benefit from it.                                                                 

In a way, this is the impact of the CAHR’s programme, because without understanding socio-economic rights, we could have not got this opportunity! During the development of the project we looked at human rights perspectives and it was that focus that allowed us to succeed."