By Leila Daud, Gender Officer, Rule of Law Programme, UNDP Somalia, and Doel Murkejee, Rule of Law Portfolio Manager, UNDP Somalia
Women’s role as peace-builders has tended to be less visible and receive less exposure than their male counterparts in Somalia; this may be because women in the past have taken part in informal and unofficial processes rather than in official peace negotiations. Customary practices in clans which promote male representation over women may be one reason for this. But such arrangements which limit women’s role in key peace and security forums can impact the effectiveness of peace-building dialogues and also, gender equality and women’s empowerment in the long term.
However, slow changes are taking place. In the recent months, Somali women have begun to stand shoulder to shoulder to call for peace - to protect their communities, families and society. They have decided to play a central role in reconciliation and peace processes as a sixth clan in Somalia - the Women’s Clan.
Last year, the Somali National Women’s Organization (SNWO) in partnership with the Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism Unit of the Office of the Prime Minister, and other civil society organisations working on women’s and young people’s empowerment and rights, held a series of consultative forums amongst women from all sections of society, in all federal member states. The forums focused on how women can take a more visible role in helping to solve crucial issues within society and in building peace, stability and security. The forums were also supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), and the Netherlands.
In Puntland, Galmudug, Southwest, Hirshabelle, Jubaland and the Banadir region, more than 600 women took part in the regional consultations on peace-building, reconciliation, dialogue and tolerance. They came up with concrete actions they wanted to see taken, which were then compiled for a concluding forum in Mogadishu. At the final Mogadishu forum, 400 women from all federal member states presented a final communique on the role women need to play in building peace, to the Federal Government of Somalia, to federal member state government leaders and to the international community.
The communique highlighted the importance of establishing a link between all Somali women wherever they are, so they can work together for peace; to recognise that women's participation in peace-building is crucial; and that this is achievable in the long term. The women also called for all government agencies to collaborate with Somali women's organisations to achieve sustainable peace and security. Alongside this, the women also demanded that the Federal Government of Somalia must include women in long term reconciliation processes, and that the role and leadership of women in these processes must be clearly defined.
These are key asks. A reconciliation process where women have clear leadership roles, could also then help women define their position in community based partnerships. It would also help women to set out clear roles in partnerships with security agencies, giving women more of an input in activities that build security and stability and which affect communities. Women have valuable viewpoints, information and insight about the communities around them, and close links with young people. If key decision makers understand this and assist women to participate in peace-building at all levels, there is a possibility that women could offer community support, especially to the youth. They can also support careful monitoring of activities within society, which will counter radicalisation within the community and help in the long-term peace process.
We firmly believe that this enhanced visible role for women needs to, and can, expand as Somali society progresses, and with that more women will be able to take up bigger responsibilities and step forward as peace-builders and leaders of Somalia.
Editor: Keelin FitzGerald, Communications Specialist, UNDP Somalia.