The Role of Somali Women in the Private Sector

27 Aug 2014

Report Summary

The Somali private sector is dominated by Micro, Smalland Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), and women are the main drivers of especially the micro sector. Usually, women enter the sector as a coping mechanism and remain trapped for very apparent reasons. These would include costly electricity, lack of access to credit, lack of business development services, restricted mobility due to insecurity, and/or complex taxation policies.

The more educated female entrepreneurs – and returned diaspora – are breaking into sectors that were traditionally dominated by men, for instance the livestock, fishery and petroleum importing sectors. Nevertheless, women struggle to function in an environment where vital business information is still shared in a very informal manner, and where belonging to a strategic network and having strong clan connections persistently determine success.

The representation of women in the private sector, or bodies supporting the sector, remains meager. For example, female employment in dominant telecommunication and financial institutions is as low as 1%, discounting the large number of female staff often employed as cleaners by firms.

Reasons stated for women’s absence include the reproductive functions women are burdened with, their lack of technical skills, clan-biased recruitment practices, and the private sector being not yet providing female- friendly working environments.

Some of the reasons are highly tangible, while others are largely based on individual perceptions. Although women serve on boards of Chambers of Commerce in the three regions, their representation in the core of private sector interaction remains considerably low. Representation in the Chamber in the South Central marks the highest with 25% and positively impacts on the visibility of business women, and grants women access to people in positions
of power.

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