‘Somali Voices’ – First female prosecutor in Somaliland

Aswan Harmud, first female Prosecutor of Somaliland

“In the past, only men did this job,” says lawyer Aswan Jibril. “Our legal system was dominated by men.” In 2010, Aswan became one of the first female prosecutors in Somaliland. With the help of UNDP’s scholarship and internship programmes, she was able to complete law school and secure an internship in the Somaliland Prosecutor’s Office.

Today, Aswan is one of over 75 women working in the legal sector in Somaliland (compared to less than five in 2008). She sees the positive changes of women in the legal sector. “I see this as a step forward for women, because we were looked down upon and people used to think we could not hold these positions,” she said.

Like Aswan, many Somalis are driving development and contributing to transformation in their communities. The story of a new Somalia is a story of hope. Important changes – such as increased numbers of women in positions of power, empowered local authorities, and access to livelihoods – are paving the way for a stable, peaceful, and vibrant Somalia. These positive changes offer better prospects for enhanced stability and development than the country has seen for more than a generation.  

The Somali Compact, signed on 16 September 2013 at the New Deal Conference in Brussels, provided a strategic plan towards stability and peace across Somalia. To this end, the New Deal laid out five Peacebuilding and State-Building Goals (PSGs) focused on inclusive political processes, security, justice, economic foundations and revenue and services. Over the last year, the promises of the government and New Deal have been building trust with the people of Somalia.

Aswan still faces challenges and her high profile work has its risks. “The women in the office have become targets,” she says. “We don’t walk around town with our faces uncovered. We cover our faces – we do this out of fear.” However, she knows that her work is critical to helping foster a competent and trusted justice sector. “I have a dream of becoming a senior prosecutor.”

Since 2011, UNDP has supported legal internships, ensuring half the interns were female. For one year, students are provided with exposure in the public sector, including key ministries, courts and the police, where they gather on-the-job work experience. These graduates are now working with the Attorney General’s Office, the Higher Judicial Council, the police, legal aid centres, local human rights NGOs, regional ministries and the Parliament.

See Aswan’s video here: http://on.fb.me/1ybB8s4 and https://vimeo.com/113368930.
To promote progress made since the New Deal Conference, we are pleased to share Aswan’s story as part of a project called ‘Somali Voices’ – where 11 Somalis tell their own stories of development in their country. Read more about the Somali Voices project, and see more Somalis tell their stories here.

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