Somalia joins the world in marking International Women’s Day
Somalia today joined the rest of the world in taking stock of women’s achievements during celebrations to commemorate International Women’s Day.
The celebrations were held in the capital Mogadishu and across the federal states, where Somalia’s international partners lauded the country for the important strides it has made towards empowering women.
“We as international actors want to support you,” said the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General (SRSG) for Somalia Michael Keating.
“If you carry on doing in the next year, two, three, four years, what you’ve been doing this year, victory will be yours,” Keating told an audience of women leaders, government officials and members of the public who gathered at the Somali Air Force hangar to mark the day.
“We fought hard to increase women’s political participation by setting a (parliamentary gender) goal of 30 per cent, that meant ensuring women receive a fair chance in the recent 2016 2017 election process,” stated the Federal Minister of Women and Human Rights Development Zahra Samatar.
The number of women elected to parliament increased from 14 percent in the previous parliament to about 25 percent in the current legislature, placing Somalia firmly on the global map of countries that are promoting higher levels of women’s participation in their legislative affairs.
“We thank partners for their support in achieving this,” said Asha Mohamud Omar, a member of the federal parliament.
However, she noted that although participation of women in politics was enshrined in the country’s provisional federal constitution, their full participation has not yet been attained.
In an interview, Mr. Keating highlighted the pivotal role women can play in helping Somalia to overcome the many challenges facing it at present and in the future.
“I don’t think these challenges will be met if women are not involved, and I think they will be met far more easily if women are in a position of leadership. So I very much hope we’ll see some women appointed as ministers, not just at the federal level but at the state level,” SRSG Keating stated.
The European Union Special Envoy to Somalia Veronique Lorenzo also advocated for the appointment of more women to the cabinet of the Federal Government of Somalia to give them a stronger voice in the country’s political affairs.
“In Somalia they (women) are a major powerhouse, and they are prominent in their different roles. But very often these achievements are not recognised,” Ms. Lorenzo said.
“They are drivers of reconciliation. They are at the centre of peace. They are at the centre of the state- and peace-building. But despite their increased economic role, they have remained largely excluded from decision-making structures.”
The humanitarian crisis triggered by the current drought was addressed by several speakers at the event.
Ms. Batula Ahmed Gaballe, the deputy Chairperson of the Goodwill Ambassadors, a women’s lobby group that actively promoted the 30 per cent gender quota for Somalia’s tenth parliament, urged more support for the country’s drought victims, especially women and children.
"I call upon all of us to help in alleviating the suffering of our children and mothers who are dying of hunger, while some of us eat three meals a day,” she pleaded.
International Women’s Day is observed annually on March 8 to highlight the progress made in women’s empowerment and celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.
The Somalia theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is “Women, Leadership, Resilience: Envisioning a New Somalia”.
Minister Samatar presented Mr. Keating with a certificate and plaque thanking the UN for its support in promoting the 30 percent quota for women’s representation in the current federal parliament.