Somali women have vowed to continue their push for special seats in parliament in the forthcoming electoral process.
The women, who congregated in Beletweyne, the headquarters of Hiraan region, last week, urged clan elders and delegates, who will participate in electing members of parliament, to ensure women are also nominated to meet the 30 percent quota reserved for them in both houses of parliament.
“We can take part in the affairs of the country as Somali women, regardless of province, district or village. We need to play our role diligently to realize the 30 percent quota in parliament and then focus our energies on achieving the same in all sectors and branches of government” Nadifo Abdi Dirshe, Director of Regional Coordination in the Ministry of Women and Human Rights said.
Ms Nadifo urged women to vet parliamentary candidates and lobby for the election of those who have played a role in improving the lives of women and fighting for their rights.
Somalia is planning to hold indirect elections before year end to elect new members of parliament and president who will serve the country for the next four years. Somali women are currently pushing for the implementation of the 30 percent quota in both lower and upper houses, where 275 and 56 seats respectively will be contested.
Asha Abdulle Siyaad, the Chief Coordinator of Somali Women’s Leadership Initiative, concurred with Ms Nadifo’s sentiments, saying women have a right to be involved in the decision making process on the forthcoming electoral process.
Ms Asha urged the Federal Government and regional leaders to include women in the National Leadership Forum meetings, which brings together the country’s top leadership, adding that they were also stakeholders in the country’s affairs.
The participants, drawn from various women organizations, expressed concern over resistance from some quarters towards the 30 percent quota rule.
They, however, promised to soldier on and ensure the rights of women and their involvement in the affairs of the country are realized.
Farhan Omar Arte, Hiraan Women Group leader gave a historical account of some of the challenges women face in their day to day lives and urged all Somalis to support the fight for gender equality.
However, despite the challenges, Ms Farxaan expressed optimism about the future and progress made so far.
“It is a great honor for us to gather here today in a meeting organized by our sisters from the Ministry of Women, UNISOM and AMISOM. We are happy that structures are being established to encourage women’s participation at the district level. We are requesting the Government of Somalia to help women get their 30 percent share to enable us achieve more than just being members of parliament and ministers,” Ms Farxaan said.
Ms Adar Ali Mohamed, Director of Communication at the Ministry of Women and Human Rights, encouraged women to actively participate in lobbying for 30 percent quota to help set the ground for the upcoming elections.
Speaking on behalf of African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), Gender Officer, Mane Ahmed, assured Somali women continued support, saying the Mission was liaising with the Federal Government of Somalia and other partners to further their cause.
“Women need to remain united and support women candidates. The African Union, UNSOM and the international community are supporting you. The improvement of women’s rights is a task for all of us; but most importantly for Somali women, Somali Federal Government and the civil society,” said Ms Mane.
United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) Gender Officer, Fawsia Abukar, noted that the 30 percent quota remains top on the international community agenda, adding that UNSOM’s Gender Office will work with Somali women throughout the country and continue offering advice to help them unite.
Members expressed hope about the future of the Somali nation in general and Somali women in particular. The participants called for more meetings to enable women share ideas on how to improve their welfare.
The women thanked AMISOM and UNSOM for their support in pushing for women’s rights. The two organizations have been holding joint events, with the support of the Ministry of Women and Human Rights, to raise awareness on women’s participation in politics. The events are also aimed at promoting the Somalia Gender Policy and ensuring women take an active role in the affairs of the country.