Somalia:Somali women leaders urge swift passage of pending electoral bill

Somali women leaders today called on members of the federal parliament to approve a pending electoral reform bill that would enshrine the principle of a 30 per cent gender quota in future national legislatures.

“The electoral law which provides for the 30 percent quota on women representation has not been passed, and it is our hope that it is passed by both the House of the People and the Senate and the draft constitution will also be amended to reflect that,” said Asha Abdulle Siyad, the chairperson of the Somali Women’s Leadership Initiative and convener of the roundtable discussion.

The forum was held under the theme “Somali women unite for inclusive politics” and drew more than 30 women representing the federal parliament, civil society, the National Independent Electoral Commission (NIEC), diaspora communities, political parties and academia.

Ms. Siyad said the discussions will take stock of the progress made by Somali women to date and review the challenges still facing them as they prepare for one-person, one-vote elections scheduled to take place in 2020.

The roundtable was supported by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia and is one in a series of events organized by Somali women leaders ahead of the International Women’s Day celebrations that will be held on Friday, 8 March.

A joint communique on the way forward will be issued at a three-day Somali Women’s Convention, which commences tomorrow in Mogadishu.

The NIEC chairperson Halima Ismail Ibrahim lauded the roundtable event, noting that the discussions will help Somali women overcome the obstacles that surface during elections.

“This conference is about the rights of the Somali women and coincides with the events to mark the International Women’s Day,” said Ms. Ibrahim.

She added that the electoral commission will work closely with civil society to educate the public about the electoral reforms being undertaken ahead of the country’s next round of elections.

Participants at the meeting discussed a variety of topics ranging from the constitutional review process and affirmative action to electoral and political party processes and barriers to women’s participation in politics.

During the 2016 electoral process, female representation in the federal parliament rose from 14 per cent in the outgoing legislature to 24 per cent. However, the increase fell short of the 30 per cent quota goal, which women leaders are planning to endorse for the 2020 elections.

The chairperson of the non-governmental organization Women, Education and Voicing Entrepreneurship, Asli Ismail Duale, lamented what she called the marginalization of women in decision-making processes and called for effective action to empower them.

“When it comes to business and the economy of this country, the people who are supporting this country are women. Women contribute 60 per cent of the country’s economy while men contribute 40 per cent, yet ironically women are not seen anywhere in decision-making,” Ms. Duale stated.