H.E. Ms. Ebyan Mahamed Salah
Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Somalia in India
Somali women were the frontlines during the freedom fight for Somalia’s independence in 1960. However, in early 1970s, Somalia women empowerment has become a significant topic of dispute, debate and discussions. With the help of the formal Military Government led by H.E. Mohamed Siyad Barre, Somali women were able to break down some of the critical socio-political barriers that hindered their advancement.
The formal government introduced laws that brought significant changes in women’s status. For instance, the government established and strengthened specific institutions for women empowerment, improved policies and regulatory framework, and allowed women’s participation in politics and public life.
These acts led to opening up of new opportunities for women in the society, and were stepping stones for Somali women empowerment and advancement. The number of women in civil services was increased, the school enrolments were quite high, the legal rights were intact and the most important, women participated in politics and become unstoppable.
Unfortunately, then the civil war broke out in 1991 that took us 20 years back to recover from being the only Failed State in the world for such a long time. During that time, Somali women have been the backbone of saving the nation and its people, particularly diaspora women who have contributed most of the remittances from abroad, which was 1.68 billion dollar per year. That was one of the reasons Somali families survived during the civil war. Somali people acknowledged and recognised the vital role women played during that time. It was the beginning of changing the mindset and the attitudes of the society towards women and their abilities.
Due to its historical background, the current government of Somalia ensures the rights of women by action and law. For example, current Somali Government nominated three prominent women to lead the most important Cabinet Portfolios, such as Ministries of Education, Health and Women’s Affairs, in order to continue the empowerment of women through decision making table. The current government’s key progress includes the launch of the development of the National Gender Policy; Drafting of the Sexual Offences Bill; Ratification of the Convention of the Rights of the Child on Oct 1, 2015 and signing of its Optional Protocols soon.
In terms of business, Somali women were rising to the top for small scale businesses and estimated their participation more than 60 percent, particularly import export in Somalia, but not major business.
Although women account for 14 percent in the current Somali parliament, the government preceded the adoption of 30 percent reserved seats for women in the National Election Model in August 2016. Somali women from local to diaspora played a significant role to ensure Women’s Quota in all sectors. However, challenges of patriarchal system embedded in the minds of Somalis are still the major obstacles for Somali women. Despite the gains made, the best is yet to come for Somali women in election in August 2016.
Happy International Women’s Day 2016!
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