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International Women’s Day: Embracing Equity for Somali Women

Editor’s Note

Somalia joins the rest of the world in commemorating International Women’s Day on March 8, a day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements made by women in various fields.

“Embrace Equity” is the theme for 2023, and it advocates for true inclusion and belonging via equitable action.

It emphasizes the importance of creating a fair playing field for women in all spheres of life, including politics, business, education, and healthcare.

In this regard, Somalia has made considerable strides in recent years to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment. However, women continue to face numerous challenges including limited access to education and healthcare, gender-based violence, and discrimination in the workplace.

As a result, the government, civil society organizations, and international partners are collaborating to enhance gender equality and women’s empowerment.

They are enacting policies and programs aimed at increasing women’s political involvement, improving access to education and healthcare, and promoting women’s economic empowerment.

One of the notable efforts toward promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment was the establishment of the National Gender Policy in 2015. The policy seeks to address the core causes of gender inequality and discrimination, as well as to promote women’s full involvement and contribution to the development of the country.

Another significant development is the adoption of the 30% quota for women’s representation in parliament. And while this is significant progress, the numbers are still relatively low. For instance, in the Lower House of Parliament, out of 274 seats, only 54 are held by women, which is about 20% of the total seats. Similarly, In the Upper House, out of 54 seats, only 14  are held by women, which is about 26% of the total seats.

This shows that Somalia is still a ways off from achieving full gender equality and women empowerment especially when you compare it to neighboring countries like Rwanda which has made giant leaps in women’s representation.

Let’s Emulate Rwanda

Rwanda is ranked first in the world for women’s representation in parliament, with women holding 61.3% of the seats in the Lower House. In the Upper House, women hold 38.5% of the seats.

Rwanda’s success in women’s representation in parliament is due to various factors, including the country’s adoption of a quota system that reserves 30% of parliamentary seats for women, as well as the government’s commitment to promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. Additionally, Rwanda has implemented policies and programs aimed at improving women’s access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities.

Some of the measures that Somalia could emulate from Rwanda’s success in women’s empowerment include:

  1. Promoting women’s education: Somalia could implement policies and programs aimed at improving women’s access to education, including scholarships and other forms of financial support. This would help to increase the number of women who are qualified to run for parliamentary seats and serve in other leadership roles.
  2. Encouraging women’s participation in politics: Somalia could implement measures to encourage women to participate in politics, including awareness-raising campaigns, training programs, and mentorship initiatives. This would help to build a pipeline of women leaders who are prepared to run for office and serve in other leadership roles.

Overall, by emulating some of the measures that Rwanda has implemented to promote women’s empowerment and increase women’s representation in parliament, Somalia could make significant progress in advancing gender equality and women’s rights.

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