By Tristan McConnell — Raped and abused, many women suffer terribly in Somalia, an unrepentantly patriarchal country shown by surveys as one of the worst places to be female.
A quota reserving 30 per cent of parliamentary seats for women in current elections is supposed to help bring change and place at least a share of political power in female hands — but it faces stiff resistance.
“Somali women participate in daily life but when it comes to politics it is challenging,” said Deqa Yasin, the female deputy head of the national election organising body.
Under international pressure, Somalia’s top politicians — federal and state leaders, all men, known as the National Leadership Forum — in August announced the 30 per cent female quota be applied to the 54 Senate seats and the 275 parliamentary seats.
The quota also applies to the 14,025 electoral college delegates who are the only people out of 12 million Somalis to vote for members of parliament.
But promises of female empowerment have not been kept. As of Thursday, just 23 of 142 parliamentary seats (16 per cent) and 10 out of 43 senate seats (23 per cent) had been won by women.
The 51 members of each electoral college that votes for a given parliamentary seat are chosen by a group of 135 traditional male elders.
In what has been called a “limited” election, the senators and MPs — once all elected — will come together to vote for a new president, but the planned date of November 30 will not be met.
Faced with the ruling on a female quota, many clan leaders do not wish to be represented by women and regard female seats as wasted.
The reluctance means the 30 per cent quota is unlikely to be met, said Michael Keating, the UN’s top representative in Somalia.
A secular dictatorship in which women held public posts was overthrown in 1991 by an alliance of clan-based militias.
Some argue the time has come to give women a chance to remedy the situation.
Miriam Aweis, 46, won a seat reserved for women in the port city of Kismayo. As minister for women in 2011, Aweis was an early fighter for a quota of females in politics. “I can’t change the Somali mindset or culture, but rules and regulations are the weapons I have,” she said.
“It’s Somali culture but it’s in other cultures as well: America just elected Trump. We are not unique.”