March 09, 2012
Marking International Women's Day, Somali women organised mass marches, meetings and festivities throughout the country to celebrate the achievement of women and to demand more rights and greater representation in government, civil society and business.
Ministers, military officials and leaders of women's organisations attended an official ceremony held at Mogadishu's "Mother's House" on Thursday (March 8th).
Women's groups also organised a demonstration attended by hundreds of women for the first time since al-Shabaab was forced out of Mogadishu. Women gathered in the courtyard of the old National Theatre, near the presidential palace and in other parts of the capital to mark the event.
"Somali women played a significant role which cannot be denied in the struggle for freedom and independence, "said President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, who spoke at the official ceremony organised by the Ministry of Women and Family Affairs. "Women stood side-by-side with men in all situations."
Somalia's Minister of Women and Family Affairs Mariam Aweis Jama welcomed the agreement reached in the Garowe II Principles to reserve 30% of the parliamentary seats in the next government to women, calling it a positive step and an acknowledgement of the positive role played by Somali women in the past two decades.
"The current Somali Transitional Federal Government encourages women to be present in all walks of life and sees them at the forefront of peace and stability efforts in the country," she said. "We will continue pursuing this campaign in order to secure the full and active participation of Somali women in the government and its leadership."
"Women are capable of serving their country just like men," she said.
President Ahmed also reiterated his support for the women's seat quota. He said the inclusion of women in political affairs was not the result of external pressures but rather an acknowledgement of the important role women play in society. He vowed to continue to work towards advancing the role of women in power as well as in society and education.
Jama said she was happy to see Somali women draping themselves in the country's blue flag and wearing traditional Somali dress. "There were only a few Somali women who dared to wear our traditional clothing a year ago because they were afraid of being killed at the hands of terrorists," she said.
"Somali women have played a larger role in saving [their] family and have borne the heaviest burden throughout 20 years of civil war in the country," Jama said.
She also demanded more protection for Somali women living in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) to protect them from sexual- and gender-based violence. "We feel deep sadness when we hear cases of rape happening inside the IDP camps in Mogadishu," she said. "We should not leave women, especially female IDPs, to be subjected to such aggressions."
Zahra Abdullah, a women's rights activist, told Sabahi that gender-based violence and rape in IDP camps around Mogadishu is common.
"Somali women have been and still are suffering from isolation, marginalisation, unemployment, violence in all its forms and limited education opportunities," she said. "We have to put an end to this culture that has been responsible for limited female participation in the political process."
"We call for an end to all forms of violence against Somali women," Abdullah said.
Celebrations in Somaliland also expressed appreciation for women's role in society, focusing on women's work for peace, democracy and nation-building. The theme of the celebration in Hargeisa was "Empower rural women, End hunger and poverty".
Somaliland's Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs Bashe Ahmed Yusuf said women are underrepresented in Somaliland's cabinet, parliament and local governments.
"Women form the largest portion of the population, and if that part of the community is left out, we will not achieve the development that we desire," he said in a speech during the official Women's Day celebration in Hargeisa.
Yusuf said women's rights are supported by Islam, but are not fulfilled in society.
Fozia Yusuf Haji Aden, chair of the Peace, Stability and Democracy organisation, the only political organisation in Somaliland out of 15 that is led by a woman, said women play an important role in brokering peace in the community and nation-building in Somaliland, but face hurdles when participating in politics.
"The biggest hurdles are the lack of confidence to vie for political office, and poverty," she said.
"We are campaigning to encourage women to participate in politics and we will not stop until women's representation in parliament outnumbers the men in parliament," Nafisa Yusuf Mohamed, director of NEGAAD Network, told Sabahi.
NEGAAD Network is an umbrella organisation comprising 46 women's groups in Somaliland aiming to empower women through education, financial independence, civic involvement, women's rights and environmental sustainability.
"The life of women, particularly the pastoral women who live under difficult circumstances, was further deteriorated by droughts that killed all their animals," said Shukri Haji Ismail Bandare, director of Candle Light, an organisation focused on health, education and the environment in Somaliland.
"I would like to urge the government and international organisations to assist the pastoral community because Somaliland's economy depends on animals," she said.
Somaliland's Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Ilham Mohamed Jama said the government has set aside funds to provide health services for pastoral women.
"I came back yesterday from a visit were we toured four regions in the eastern side with the minister for agriculture," Jama said. "I have seen the difficult circumstances under which the mothers live. They do not have easily accessible health centres and passable roads for vehicles to take them to hospital when they are in labour."
Jama called on humanitarian agencies to help build health centres for citizens living in rural areas.
Some Somali lawmakers have abandoned a motion asking the prime minister and his cabinet to seek a...
Opposition lawmakers alleged that the Tanzanian government has been stifling free speech and disr...
A DNA sample extracted from a toothbrush in a bag containing ammunition found at the scene of a s...
Seventeen Kenyans have been charged with breaching the peace, rioting and cruelty to animals over...
Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for firing mortar rounds Monday (May 20th) at the president...
Soldiers in Uganda's Battle Group 9+ contingent are returning home after completing a 13-month to...
The Kenyan police force will begin comprehensively vetting officers next month, starting by inter...
A thwarted robbery attempt at a Wells Fargo security office in Mombasa left three people dead Mon...
Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama has pledged his country's support for Somalia's reconstruc...
Tanzanian police arrested Iringa Urban parliamentarian Peter Msigwa and 60 traders for unauthoris...