“Your capacity building training was really an eye opener for me”

Story - 2020-05-18
Women’s role in Somali politics had so long been too low and remains a sensitive topic in the country. Like many other African cultures, Somali society typically ascribes to the more conservative belief of a woman’s role in family and community life. Women are seen as unreliable representatives in the political arena, because of their dual affiliation to their father’s and husband’s clan. This has been changing, but there’s a long road ahead.
Asma Saeed, an activist
Asma Saeed, a female activist giving a remarks during disability inclusive disaster risk reduction event held in Borama, Somaliland.

Asma Saeed, a young female activist from Borama, Somaliland was one of the trainees who participated in a training aimed at promoting women political participation in Somaliland. The training was organised by the Centre for Policy Analysis (CPA), a local organisation in Somaliland, with funding from Forum Syd. Asma holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from a local university and had little interest in advocating for women rights and political participation. Luckily, she was invited to participate in this training where she did make it. 

“Before the training, I understood well that women had little role in the political space in Somaliland. And women have lived with this sort of inequality and very little was done to address it. It was not a concern for many of us.” She said. 

The training enlightened me on ways of advocating for women rights, equipped me with the advocacy skills that I required and how I can constructively engage with political leaders, elders and other decision-makers in our society.

The training which had women and men participants drawn from political parties, civil society organisations, youth and women groups, university graduates, and government official, provided a platform to openly study and deliberate both the opportunities and challenges that exist and how it is playing out in helping women’s realize their dreams in the political platform. The training came at a time when Somaliland parliamentary elections and local council (guurti) are expected in 2020/2021 though have been postponed for several times.  

“The training brought together different minds of people who were willing to support women in securing their equal share in parliamentary and local council elections. The training enlightened me on ways of advocating for women rights, equipped me with the advocacy skills that I required and how I can constructively engage with political leaders, elders and other decision-makers in our society.” She said. 

Asma Saeed receives a certification of recognition for her work from the minister of parliamentary relations and constitutional affairs in Hargeisa, Somaliland.
Asma Saeed receives a certification of recognition for her work from the minister of parliamentary relations and constitutional affairs in Hargeisa, Somaliland.

The introduction of 2016, 30% parliamentary gender quota in Somalia marked a significant and important step towards achieving women’s equal political representation. Unfortunately, in Somaliland, a self-declared state with no international recognition, the political trajectory there has diverged significantly from that in the south and east, with no quota for women in the parliamentary system. According to a press statement by CPA in January 2020, the current administration has more than 613 elected and nominated positions, nearly 97% are male. 

A post-test conducted at the end of the training revealed that participants gained knowledge and increased their understanding of ways and strategies of promoting women political participation. The training provided a platform where right-holders and civil society representatives were able to interact and directly ask questions to duty-bearers on pertinent issues affecting women in securing their fair share in the political space. The government officials who were in attendance vowed to respect and support women networks and women political contestants who have interest in running political seats in the upcoming elections. 

As women, we have agreed not to let a few men decide our fate in politics, we should decide that for ourselves and pave our way. We shall stand for our right to equal participation.

“Now that I had some knowledge on ways of promoting women political participation, I felt it was time to roll-out the knowledge to others. First, I have started talking to other women and ladies who have graduated from local universities here on the need to claim our rights. We have started also coordinating our activities with youth caucus form other regions in Somaliland in an effort to learn from their experience.” She said. 

Asma mobilised women and ladies who recently graduated from local universities in her town of Borama and unified them into one main umbrella so that they can jointly push together for their common goal of achieving improved women representation. Through her advocacy effort, Asma organised a one-on-one meeting with duty-bearers such as meeting with relevant parliamentary groups, ministers, community and religious leaders and international community representatives and development partners. The duty-bearers have promised to join them in pushing through the change they want to achieve in the society and in the political arena.

 “As women, we have agreed not to let a few men decide our fate in politics, we should decide that for ourselves and pave our way. We shall stand for our right to equal participation.” She said. 

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