In court with the first women lawyers of Somaliland
Koos was just granted her divorce. She filed for divorce after her husband deserted her, just a few months after their wedding. She gave birth to their son but never heard from her husband again. She asked Ismahan Hassan Ahmed, one of the ten women lawyers in Somaliland, to advise her and represent her in court. In Islam, a woman who has been deserted by her husband is entitled to ask for divorce.
Ismahan Hassan Ahmed has been a practicing lawyer for a year, and joined the profession because she considered that there was a real gap, for women lawyers to fill. She is amongst the first female lawyers in Somaliland. She says that establishing themselves as lawyers was difficult for Somaliland women at the beginning because traditionally women are not accepted in such professions; but that the good wok that the women have done has changed this perception and that they won the admiration and respect of their communities. Although their clients are mostly women, a few men have started to require their services.
Ismahan was not one of the law students who were granted a UNDP scholarship and she struggled to pay her own university fees. She says that the next step now is to give these female law students a chance to specialize. Because the curriculum at Hargeisa’s law faculty does not offer a masters in law, the students are not given a chance to specialize. She calls on UNDP to look into the possibility of offering scholarships for some of the lawyers to take a masters abroad.
UNDP Somalia has provided scholarships for women to attend the Hargeisa Law Faculty since 2004. There are now 41 female law graduates in Somaliland, 39 of them from the Hargeisa Faculty of Law, involved in changing perceptions of the role of women in the formal legal system. Ten of them are working as lawyers. There are still no women investigators, prosecutors or judges in Somaliland.