Friday, June 27, 2014

Africa: Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Somalia’s women aim for greater leadership roles

Source: United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia

Somalia’s women know what they want: greater participation in politics and leadership, and they’re going for it. On 25 June, dozens of women from across the country met in Mogadishu as part of the Somali Women Leadership Initiative.

The meeting was aimed at taking stock of the efforts made in ensuring greater participation of women in high-level decision-making and the political sphere. Female activists from various groups also used the occasion to share experiences from their respective regions.

The event, organized in coordination with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), was also attended by Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and the Minister for Gender and Human Rights Development, Khadija Mohamed Diriye.

“The Somali Women’s Leadership Initiative represents a resolution to bring together women leaders from the regional and national levels so that they can share notes, experiences and to plan and decide for the future, so that they can be part of the high level decision making organs,” said Zaynab Ugaas Yaasin who represented Puntland in the deliberations.

The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (SRSG) for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, urged women to actively advocate for reform. “When you ask for fair representation in all the new commissions and other bodies you’re not asking for a favor; what you’re asking for is your right as in your Provisional Federal Constitution. Article three, paragraph five says women must be included in an effective way in all national institutions and it also mentions specifically national independent commissions,” he said.

For more than twenty years, in successive peace conferences and mediation efforts, Somali women have demanded a fair participation in the process. In 2012, the provisional constitution enshrined women’s inalienable right to be represented at the highest organs of decision-making. In Parliament, women were assigned a 30 percent quota of the total seats. While this has not come to fruition, with only 14 percent attained, it has set the stage for greater efforts to reform the status quo.

Speaking at the event, President Hassan Sheikh challenged women to double their efforts in advocacy and creating awareness, asserting that a shift in attitude within society would greatly advance the cause.

“Sometimes, even though there is no law forbidding it, there are still no requisite levels of representation. The efforts do not stop at legislation because all the past agreements including the parliamentary quota have not been fulfilled. So first we need to increase awareness on the role of women in politics and its every mothers responsibility to nurture her daughter and instill the sense of leadership in her,” said President Hassan.

The women have signaled that it is no longer business as usual in the country’s political sphere, long dominated by men. As the event drew to a close, women were unanimous in their resolve to make their mark and establish their rightful place in the highest echelons of leadership in Somalia.