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Published On: Mon, Feb 8th, 2016

Somalia:Marginalization of Somali women in politics

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FoziaSomali society in all ages believe that women are crucial for social development but when it comes resource sharing and  participation in political and socio-economic context, they are underrepresented and marginalized and worse of all women’s inclusion is perceived as breaking deep-rooted culture inherited from forefathers. There are thousands and thousands of professional/talented women in Somalia today who have been left behind not because of their poor qualification but because of their gender status.

 “Women are housewives”,

“Women should be confined to their houses and not coming to stages and raising their voices”

“Women cannot speak in front of men” 

“Woman is children with big foot”

“Women in grave or under auspices of man”

“Women are common properties of the community”

 

Those and several other phrases are commonly used among Somalia’s community, the normalization of women’s exclusion in Somalia is not something that has recently started, Somalia has long history of patriarchy and male dominance culture just like other African countries in the continent. However, due to knowledge transformation and more awareness on gender equality and women empowerment a short step toward gender equality has been made. Very few women broke the silence and spoke out for the rights of women but again it dominated by the voices of their male colleagues including their own family members.

One of the prominent women activist in Somalia was rejected to become an MP by her traditional clan elders claiming that she is married to a man from another clan. Likewise, her husband’s clan never accepted her to represent at political level as she has no the same clan lineage with her husband. Although she was the most talent among her clan and a visible figure at national level.

Women are also not considered in educational programs at family and community level due to the fact that the Somali society believe that if a woman is educated and get employed, her earning will go to another clan although parents are obliged to support their daughters after divorced yet he is not accepting to educate female children assuming that she will go to another family.

The same practice applies when it comes social, economic and political participation. For instance religion gives women full rights of inheritance to their parents, husband and other family members, however, community still stick to their unbreakable perception that women has no rights inheriting their family members. In most cases, women are forced to “widow inheritance” shortly after their husbands passes away to keep the properties (including herself) and the children with limit of the family.  In some rural areas, when a wealth man is about to die, he divorces his wife for the sake of keeping her away from inheritance. Despite all the subordination, Somali women regardless of their social statues still face domestic abuse and sexual violence perpetrated by men.

THE VISION 2016: a vision without mission

Stories of this lady and many other unreported grieving of women still remain undiscovered, four years ago it was principally agreed that %30 of parliament seats to be given to women in a national conference organized in 2012 Growe Somalia,, nevertheless, that quota is yet to be secured as to some of clan leaders nominating women in this undisputable position is unacceptable. The new Somali combat which came out in 2013 as result of international dialogue held in Belgium outlines gender equality only as cross cutting issues whereas other issues including establishment of regional administration was well articulated. This shows still marginalization against women is legitimate practice in Somali context.

Women were also underrepresented in the recent regional administrations formed in Somalia with only one female minister appointed among the 29 cabinets of southwest regional state Somalia. the national elections scheduled in 2016 is expected to be one-man-one vote, however, with no proper election mechanism in place such as registration of the citizens and lack of national IDs people are still keep asking “what kind of election are we going to have”. Even if it became reality the question is “will participation of women be considered?”

Where men stand?

With practice of masculinity being common in Somalia men’s role in shouldering women to promote gender equality and preventing sexual violence is not at the required level. Hundreds of civil society and women organizations are implementing various programs addressing violence against women in Somalia, however, all of these programs are confined only response mechanism not changing social norms particularly men’s attitude/behavior toward the violence itself.

Suggestions:-

Ø Women should not give up the struggle for their rights and equality rights in all aspects

Ø Civil society should act as pressure group on the government and other concerned actors to secure the predicted 30% quota for women before 2016 election.

Ø CSOs to shift their programs in engaging men in combating VAW rather than addressing as response aspect in which, the violence will always continue

Ø The few female MPs representing Somali women at large should not be satisfied with that %14 quota and should fight for the 30% and beyond.

Ø Educational programs for women should be promoted so that they can demand and speak out for their rights.

Ø Role of international community toward gender equality should be visible rather than focusing on only political disputes.

Somali society in all ages believe that women are crucial for social development but when it comes resource sharing and  participation in political and socio-economic context, they are underrepresented and marginalized and worse of all women’s inclusion is perceived as breaking deep-rooted culture inherited from forefathers. There are thousands and thousands of professional/talented women in Somalia today who have been left behind not because of their poor qualification but because of their gender status.

 “Women are housewives”,

“Women should be confined to their houses and not coming to stages and raising their voices”

“Women cannot speak in front of men” 

“Woman is children with big foot”

“Women in grave or under auspices of man”

“Women are common properties of the community”

 

Those and several other phrases are commonly used among Somalia’s community, the normalization of women’s exclusion in Somalia is not something that has recently started, Somalia has long history of patriarchy and male dominance culture just like other African countries in the continent. However, due to knowledge transformation and more awareness on gender equality and women empowerment a short step toward gender equality has been made. Very few women broke the silence and spoke out for the rights of women but again it dominated by the voices of their male colleagues including their own family members.

One of the prominent women activist in Somalia was rejected to become an MP by her traditional clan elders claiming that she is married to a man from another clan. Likewise, her husband’s clan never accepted her to represent at political level as she has no the same clan lineage with her husband. Although she was the most talent among her clan and a visible figure at national level.

Women are also not considered in educational programs at family and community level due to the fact that the Somali society believe that if a woman is educated and get employed, her earning will go to another clan although parents are obliged to support their daughters after divorced yet he is not accepting to educate female children assuming that she will go to another family.

The same practice applies when it comes social, economic and political participation. For instance religion gives women full rights of inheritance to their parents, husband and other family members, however, community still stick to their unbreakable perception that women has no rights inheriting their family members. In most cases, women are forced to “widow inheritance” shortly after their husbands passes away to keep the properties (including herself) and the children with limit of the family.  In some rural areas, when a wealth man is about to die, he divorces his wife for the sake of keeping her away from inheritance. Despite all the subordination, Somali women regardless of their social statues still face domestic abuse and sexual violence perpetrated by men.

THE VISION 2016: a vision without mission

Stories of this lady and many other unreported grieving of women still remain undiscovered, four years ago it was principally agreed that %30 of parliament seats to be given to women in a national conference organized in 2012 Growe Somalia,, nevertheless, that quota is yet to be secured as to some of clan leaders nominating women in this undisputable position is unacceptable. The new Somali combat which came out in 2013 as result of international dialogue held in Belgium outlines gender equality only as cross cutting issues whereas other issues including establishment of regional administration was well articulated. This shows still marginalization against women is legitimate practice in Somali context.

Women were also underrepresented in the recent regional administrations formed in Somalia with only one female minister appointed among the 29 cabinets of southwest regional state Somalia. the national elections scheduled in 2016 is expected to be one-man-one vote, however, with no proper election mechanism in place such as registration of the citizens and lack of national IDs people are still keep asking “what kind of election are we going to have”. Even if it became reality the question is “will participation of women be considered?”

Where men stand?

With practice of masculinity being common in Somalia men’s role in shouldering women to promote gender equality and preventing sexual violence is not at the required level. Hundreds of civil society and women organizations are implementing various programs addressing violence against women in Somalia, however, all of these programs are confined only response mechanism not changing social norms particularly men’s attitude/behavior toward the violence itself.

Suggestions:-

Ø Women should not give up the struggle for their rights and equality rights in all aspects

Ø Civil society should act as pressure group on the government and other concerned actors to secure the predicted 30% quota for women before 2016 election.

Ø CSOs to shift their programs in engaging men in combating VAW rather than addressing as response aspect in which, the violence will always continue

Ø The few female MPs representing Somali women at large should not be satisfied with that %14 quota and should fight for the 30% and beyond.

Ø Educational programs for women should be promoted so that they can demand and speak out for their rights.

Ø Role of international community toward gender equality should be visible rather than focusing on only political disputes.

 

About the Author

- Mohamed Ibrahim Guled is the CEO, owner and chief editor of SomalilandPress

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