Nov 3, 2012

Somalia's women

Women meeting the Technical Selection Committee to ensure women are represented
Much of the political rhetoric surrounding Somalia in the last few months has seen a reoccurrence of one debate; women's participation. I was in Mogadishu when the roadmap milestones were met with the approval of the draft constitution and selection of parliament. But whilst these milestones were being celebrated, particularly because for the first time it was held in Mogadishu, many women were galvanising one another to push for more female political participation. Whilst at the constitution conference, outburst of women voicing their perturbance kept happening. I spoke to some of them then and the key concern seemed to be the fear of not getting their 30% quota in the parliament.

They didn't get their quota and since then, many presidential candidates including the current president included this issue as a priority into their campaign. I waited to see if any of these discussions and promises would bear fruit and, going by the street talk of Mogadishu in the last few days, the new cabinet, when announced, might be taking a key step into the forward movement of this debate in the form of a female foreign minister.

If this does become true it might be a cause for celebration but what lingers in the back of my mind is the fact that Somali women had always as far back as history depicts been part and parcel of Somali society, unlike our Arab and Western counterparts. They were highly active and held many key posts within government, including ministerial, as well as leading other areas and institutions of the Somali country and society. One of the fond memories I have as a child in Mogadishu is going with my mother to her university, whose department was led by a female professor.

And then when the civil war broke out, women took an even greater social responsibility upon their shoulders and became the backbone of society and initiators of survival. So I wonder when did this backward moving shift occur where women have now got to ask for inclusion, as if they're second
class citizens? Till this day most women are the breadwinners of their households and leaders of their communities but them advocating for a minority inclusion defeats the mountainous role they 
always played.

It is a topical issue, one that can certainly not be concluded in a mere blog post but I just wanted to shed light into the need to properly examine and engage with somali women with regards to the roles they played, engage them on an equal platform as men and then look into developing their participation, rather than having minority quotas and the odd ministerial position allocated.

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