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Women’s voices shouldn’t only be heard because they are the victims of the war- Mary Robinson

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Somalia: Creating a united front to empower women political leaders

4-5 June 2016

Members of the business community in Kismayo attend a meeting with foreign journalists to discuss the recent liberation of the city by al-Shabab and the future of the region's charcoal industry. Credit: Tobin Jones/UN Photos.

Members of the business community in Kismayo attend a meeting with foreign journalists to discuss the recent liberation of the city by al-Shabab and the future of the region's charcoal industry. Credit: Tobin Jones/UN Photos.

Mogadishu, Somalia –As part of its programme supporting legislative institutions in Somalia, AWEPA organised a Seminar on women political leaders on 4-5 June 2016 in Mogadishu, Somalia. The Seminar targeted recently returned members of the Somali Diaspora, members of civil society, students and political activists.

Attendees from civil society included representatives of the Somali Women Development Society, the Hil-Kas Foundation, the Kismayo Women’s Group, Somali Society Care and the Waive Foundation, organisation covering a number of issues including legal aid, gender equality activism, grassroots organisational assistance on gender matters, gender and human rights development, youth and human rights activism.

The main objective behind the event was to reach out to and connect the different groups attending in order to facilitate cooperation to achieve common goals, more specifically regarding the upcoming elections in 2016 and the need to ensure that gender concerns become a priority topic for the election cycle. Therefore, a large portion of the event was dedicated to finding common ground between the various participants and looking for ways, and opportunities, for them to move forward together.

The seminar was opened by the Somali Minister for Women and Human Rights Development, Hon. Zahra Ali Mohamed Samantar, who stressed the need for cooperation and a clear understanding of the enormity of the tasks ahead. The Minister highlighted the importance of collective lobbying, but stated that it is only possible when a shared platform can be agreed upon; without an internal consensus there is little chance for effective change.

A short introduction of AWEPA, its work, past accomplishments and activities in Somalia was then given by the Women’s Programme Officer. A specific focus was placed on the gender issues that AWEPA champions and the efforts it has undergone to shed a light on gender concerns in Somalia.

Looking to the future, participants discussed the potential organisation of large scale protests and lobbying to ensure that the 30% participation quota of women in parliament is put to the forefront in the 2016 election cycles. In addition, the participants agreed that, following the elections, a united front on gender concerns must be achieved by state members of parliament, federal members of parliament, returning diaspora members, students and gender & human rights activists. A caucus of these groups would be powerful enough to be heard and not easily silenced.