Goodwill Ambassador lobbies for women’s greater representation in politics
At only twenty-five years of age, Fatima Abdi Warsame is at the helm of an organization that mobilizes young people to start projects that enhance their status in society.
Her leadership role at the Somali National Youth Council prepared her for a more challenging task: generating nationwide support for women’s greater participation in politics. “I was exposed to leadership at a fairly young age. This has expanded my worldview and enabled me to take on more complex assignments such as the one I am involved in now, as a goodwill ambassador for women,” says Fatima.
Her appointment as a Goodwill Ambassador for Women has led her to take on greater responsibility and for good reasons. As a young Somali, she has very clear vision and views about women’s chances and opportunities.
“They should compete for all posts and should never give chances to men to say that there is no woman competing for this or that position,” she says. Fatima adds: “We must have women with knowledge, experience and talent to contest for political positions so that they can be role models for the young women and girls.”
A graduate of Business Studies from Simad University in Mogadishu, Fatima had the choice of pursuing a career in business, but chose to enter politics to help change the status of women.
The challenges facing women in Somalia have done little to dampen her spirit. Fatima believes women in Somalia have the destiny of their country in their hands and hold the key to Somalia’s prosperity. “Like many countries in Africa, women form majority of the population in Somalia. They can make or break this country, and that is why we need more women in decision making levels,” says Fatima.
She hopes that Somalia will one day be compared to Rwanda, where women make up 60 per cent of the country’s legislative assembly. In the interim, she says she will use the resources at her disposal to champion the cause of women. She dismisses the notion that men are more pre-disposed to leadership than women.
“Society thinks that as long as there are men, women should never be number one. Men should be number one and women should follow. That is just a perception.” she states.
Fatima has served as Senior Advisor on Youth Affairs in the Office of the Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke. Prior to that, she was a broadcaster at one of the local radio stations in Mogadishu. It was therefore not a surprise when she was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador for women’s political representation and participation, to lobby for the reservation of 30 per cent of the seats for women in both houses of the country’s next federal parliament.
As a Goodwill Ambassador, she is part of the ongoing advocacy ahead of this year’s legislative and presidential polls. Her biggest hurdle yet is, winning over clan elders, some of whom are opposed to the idea of specifically reserving seats for women. “Cultural perceptions about women may take some time to change. I am determined to be in the forefront of spearheading that positive change,” affirms Fatima.
To cross that hurdle though, she promises to remind Somali clan elders how women held the country together during the war. Women proved their worth to the nation and now the time has come for them to secure their rightful place in politics.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia and the UN in general fully support the work of the Goodwill Ambassadors advocating for the 30 per cent reserved seats in the upcoming electoral process and strongly believe that women should participate widely in political life.