Women empowerment means instituting measures to strengthen women participation in social, political and economic activities. Moreover, it is vital for the achievement of sustainable development. Inclusive participation of both men and women is essential in a productive society, comprising shared household responsibilities and beyond. Around the world, women are face with wide discrimination, challenges with accessing proper healthcare and other obstacles in trying to navigate most societies’ socio -political and economic spheres. In most regions in Somalia, women acquire less formal education than men. However, the few who are privileged to get valuable education have managed to overcome various challenges and become competitive players in different field. While there are many activities that are geared towards supporting women in Somalia there is a lot of work that needs to be done.
Indeed, in some effort, such as during the second Garowe conference where political leaders agreed to ensure that women get a reserved quota of 30% representation in both houses of the federal parliament of Somalia. But despite this, the country ranks among the last five countries in the United Nation Development Program’s (UNDP) Human Development Index and Gender Equality Index. Statistics indicate that 1 in 16 women die in childbirth, and 10 percent die before the end of their reproductive years.
This is why in the wake of reviewing the provisional federal Constitution, a number of actors such as civil society organization including y-peer are advocating for empowering Somali women not only to be engaged in the constitutional review process but to ensure the final draft will have ensured guarantees with regard to attaining a gender-equality in most if not all-important spheres of the society. These guarantees must be safeguarded by the constitution and implementing agencies. Such efforts will not be foreign to Somalia since even the founding principles of federal constitution indicated that ‘Women must be included, in an effective way, in all national public institutions, especially, all elected and appointed positions in the entire three arms of government and in national independent commissions.
There continues to be serious obstacles to the promotion of the 30% quota of women decision-making. This explains partly the larger problem that is facing the country and it is a high time to call for further transformation of social norms and attitudes. It is evident that Somali women’s social, political and economic marginalization is reinforced by their exclusion from decision-making. Any advocate of women equality not just in Somalia but across the continent and the world must contend that that human beings are living in different times that calls for different measures that will allow each and every member of the society to stand up, take responsibility and be counted. That cannot be achieved if women who consist of a large segment of the society will be marginalized. Despite the fact that the current participation of women in politics in Somalia particular Jubaland and southwest states are low compared to the federal government or neighboring countries like Uganda or Kenya few women are taking bold steps to join politics and compete for leadership opportunities.
Thus, promoting women’s political leadership capacity and skills is essential to the long-term development of governance capacity. But beyond political leadership, where women require to access, keep and utilize power, there are many other areas of significant importance that women voices need to be heard and their contribution needs to be felt. It goes without saying that the role of women in economic growth cannot be ignored neither are their efforts in building social cohesion, development of agriculture, advancement in medicine, engineering and other social and natural sciences. Therefore, women empowerment in Somalia needs to go beyond allocating certain political seats and start to penetrate into schools and universities, research centers, farms, laboratories, companies and other different sectors.
All the above will not be possible if the society does not acknowledge that women are unrepresented in social, economic and political arenas due to weaknesses associated with some of the social -cultural beliefs or complete lack of non-gender sensitive policies, lack of economic capacity, cultural limitations and domestic burdens and clan-based representation system. Widespread misinformation among community, women and the girl-child in particular are a major challenge to any meaningful development in Somalia at large. Great talent and leadership potential sometimes go unnoticed because of the many burdens that affect women from acceding to leadership positions. Some of these burdens include; early marriages, lack of an open, transparent and inclusive political process, economic constrains, lack or little education, political instability, clan politics, insufficient mentorship and capacity building as well as a failed affirmative action.
Despite these challenges, all is not lost for the Somali woman. For one they are known for their resilience, competence and hard work provides a promising path to the future. Already women who have been tasked with various responsibilities have lived up to the expectations. However, more practical work needs to be done. Providing an enabling environment where a young Somali girl can grow up and live her dreams is an important step towards doing justice to the whole process of women empowerment. Any form of prejudice needs to be discouraged and more girls should be encouraged to engage in different and diverse fields of science, art, literature and governance. At the end, we need to reach a level where women no longer need special allocation in leadership positions as they can compete with fellow women and men and be able to win.