Somali elections: How women still fight for political space in African polls - Somalia | ReliefWeb

Original article in the Conversation by Stephanie Carver

Stephanie describes how the February 2017 Somali election delivered an increase in female representation from 14% to 25%. However, the electoral system relied on traditional leaders selecting members of an electoral college to choose representatives. In 2012, the traditional leaders directly selected representatives. 

In 2012, this quota system produced far less than the desired 30 percent of female MPs, with only 39 seats of the total 275 going to female candidates. That notwithstanding, Somalia chose to resurrect the same model in this year’s election, and it was supported by western states.

As presidential candidate Fadumo Dayib pointed out, while western governments called for greater gender equality, they supported a system that placed female politicians at the mercy of male clan elders.

If women are to play a central role in Somali politics, they will have to forge the path themselves. Indeed, the president’s electoral campaign platform made no mention of women’s issues.

In a country where domestic violence, rape and sexual assault are described as endemic there appears to be no strategy to tackle these issues in the national security policy outlined thus far.

This absence of gender sensitivity implies that women’s issues are not political issues. Yet without carving out a political space specifically for women, it will be difficult for them to champion key issues in any future campaign.

If truth be told, fostering the participation of women in the political sphere has faced a number of challenges in Somali elections.

Positive steps have been made but some of these challenges will only be overcome by the introduction of universal suffrage and a rethinking of the indirect election model.