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Somali Women Seek More Political Participation As the Country Marks International Women’s Day

Storyline:National News

Somali women are calling for more involvement in the country’s political and decision-making processes, as the country joins the rest of the world to mark International Women’s Day tomorrow. The theme of this year’s celebration is “Pledge for Parity” and “Planet 50 – 50: Step It Up for Gender Equality” which roots for equal opportunities for both gender.

In Somalia, women are rising up following more than two decades of civil war and a culture impediments to participate in the country’s stabilisation efforts including playing roles in the country’s security and political growth. To date, Somalia has mainstreamed gender issues into the country’s Provisional Federal Constitution; with discussions to better cater for women in the new constitution that is currently being written.

Asha Abdulle Siyad of the Somali Women Leadership Initiative (SWLI), says there has been tremendous progress regarding the status of women: “There was a culture that said that Somali women cannot participate or be part of the political processes but the last four years of this government, we have lobbied. When the regional administrations were being formed, we participated. We went to every region to mobilise the women, to reconcile them and to show them how to unite as women and advocate for their rights together as women,” she said.

Ms. Asha emphasizes that the voices of women need to be heard, adding that they need to be among the decision makers, if their views are to be taken seriously: “It is very important because in Somalia, it is estimated that women and girls constitute 70% of the population. So if women are not part of the decision making process, then who will speak for their needs or their rights? They have to be part of the political administration; they have to be on that decision making table so that they can voice the needs women, the needs of girls, everything about women.”

Despite efforts to improve the lives of Somali women, they still face challenges that negatively impact them. Amina Arale is the Executive Director of Somali Women Development Centre, an organisation that provides assistance to disadvantaged women. She says there are critical issues that require urgent attention. The African Union has declared 2016 the African Year of Human Rights with particular focus on the rights of women. It is the year when African countries who are member states of the AU are expected to expedite policies and laws that create gender parity and equal opportunities for women.