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.
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.
The Acting President of Zambia, Ms Inonge Wina called for all political parties in Zambia to
ensure that they adopt more women at all levels of this year’s General Elections to meet the 50-50 gender parity that is required by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) protocol on Gender.
Ms Wina, who is the Republican Vice President, said this year’s elections were very important not only because of the 50 plus one threshold to elect a Republican President but also because of the need to have more women participation.
From Somaliland - there is one woman in the lower house of parliament and getting more women elected would require quotas at least, to overcome entrenched barriers. The article quotes Baar Saed Farah who is the only woman in Somaliland's 82-member Lower Chamber. Women are not permitted in the 82-member House of Elders in the Upper Chamber.
Baar Saed Farah spoke of efforts to reserve 30 seats for women at the upcoming elections in 2017:
‘Without a women's quota I don't think there will be any more women in parliament,’
‘In normal employment there is no differentiation between genders but when it comes to political participation it becomes very difficult for women because of a culture that favors men’.
'Even women may not accept a woman running for election because they are so used to men making decisions'.