Somalia: UN Deputy chief calls for more women to participate in elections

Somalia: UN Deputy chief calls for more women to participate in elections

As Somalia is holding parliamentary elections this week, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina J Mohammed visited the country on Sunday to express her solidarity with Somali women’s calls for full and equal participation in political life. 

“Somalia achieved a milestone at its last elections in 2016/17 with 24 per cent of parliamentary seats filled by women, and I am hopeful that the country will build on this by expanding women’s participation even further,” Mohammed said. 

During her visit to the capital Mogadishu, Mohammed met women leaders, activists and advocates who voiced concerns on the overall situation of Somali women, including levels of violence and insecurity, and how this impacts their participation in political life.  

According to a 2020 report by UN Women and UNFPA, Somalia ranks fourth-lowest for gender equality globally. Early marriage is high, with 45 per cent of women aged 20 to 24 married by the age of 18, and an estimated 91 per cent of women aged 15 to 49 have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM), which has both short-term and long-term physiological, sexual and psychological repercussions. Gender based violence (GBV) is pervasive, the case study reports, with physical assault and intimate partner violence the most commonly experienced GBV incidents, followed by sexual assault and rape.

These hurdles constrain women’s political participation and civic engagement, however Mohammed commented that “Somalia has achieved considerable momentum with its electoral process.” 

After meeting with President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble and the National Consultative Council (NCC), which is charged with providing overall direction for the elections, Mohammed lauded their commitment to advance women’s political participation, such as decreasing fees for women candidates and appointing Goodwill Ambassadors and Champions to advocate for greater inclusion.

Prime Minister Roble also pledged in January that a third of the seats in both the lower and upper houses of parliament will be reserved for women, a quota the UN and Somalia’s other international partners have urged leaders to safeguard. 

“Ensuring the 30 per cent quota is met is an important first step to full representation and an inclusive society. The peace dividend will not happen without women,” said the UN Deputy Secretary-General. “It will also be important to agree on a specific mechanism on how exactly the commitment of a minimum 30 per cent quota will be achieved in the upcoming elections,” she added. 

Women’s rights activists and political experts have also been campaigning in Somalia for more participation of women in politics. Last month, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), a peace keeping mission advocating for the rights of girls and women in the country, organised a two-day forum calling for the 30% quota to be guaranteed during the elections

The forum gathered members of the Committee of Goodwill Women Ambassadors, representatives of the Somalia Women Development Centre, and civil society activists to urge women to take an active role in the ongoing elections and peace-making initiatives in Somalia.

“For this forum, we wanted women and various stakeholders to converge and talk to each other since elections are already underway. Our goal is to make sure that women get their constitutionally mandated political representation so that they are part of decision making in this country,” AMISOM Political Affairs Officer Muna Hassan said.

“My sister Somali leaders are amongst the best in the country and on the continent,” tweeted Mohammed. “Implementing the 30% minimum quota for women in the ongoing elections will be a watershed moment for Somalia”.


Featured image: Amina J. Mohammed, May 2017. Photo: Bundesministeriums für europäische und internationale Angelegenheiten / CC BY 2.0

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