Our Perspectives

International Women’s Day 2018: The Time is Now in Somalia

George Conway, Country Director, United Nations Development Programme Somalia

Today is International Women’s Day.  This year,  with the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns spotlighting sexual harassment and abuse, and the #NiUnaMenos, ‘not one less movement’ protesting femicide, we are carrying forward the meaning and power of such campaigns by celebrating the activists who work tirelessly, and push all of us, to achieve equal rights for women around the world.

The promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women is central to the mandate of UNDP Somalia and intrinsic to our development approach.  This includes advocating for women’s and girls’ equal rights, combatting discriminatory practices and challenging the roles and stereotypes that lead to inequalities and exclusion. We have made good progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment in Somalia, but there is still so much more to do.

The Time is Now to end sexual harassment and abuse. UNDP addresses Gender Based Violence (GBV) in Somalia through ongoing community conversations and inter-generational dialogues on how to prevent GBV, supporting advocacy for legislative reforms and striving for abandonment of harmful practices.

The Time is Now to end violence against women.  Approximately 98% of women in Somalia undergo Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), and it is mostly performed on girls between the ages 4 to 11 years in its most severe form. UNDP continues to support the Somali Government and people to eradicate FGM by hosting community outreach forums on how to eliminate this harmful practice, and through legal and policy support on adoption of gender national policy, FGM policy and Sexual Offence policy.

The Time is Now to promote women’s political participation. UNDP supported efforts to realize a 30% quota for women in the electoral process of 2016 in Somalia. Through high level advocacy, mass sensitization, dialogues with traditional institutions, and capacity building support for women candidates, women achieved 24.6% of the seats in both houses of the parliament (13/54 at the Upper House and 67/275 in the Lower house) and the new cabinet of 26 members includes 5 women in top ministries.

The Time is Now to close the gender employment gap.  Somali women face higher levels of unemployment than men in the formal sectors of the economy and earn less than men for work of equal value. Female employment in the main telecommunication and financial institutions is as low as 1%, while in the public sector it is only 4%.  Women also still lack equal participation and representation in government and the private sector.

The Time is Now to ensure that rural women have equal opportunities.  A 2014 UNDP socio-economic survey estimated that 14% of households in urban areas, and 12% of households in rural areas are headed by women, which means that women are increasingly the sole provider in a household. Such households are often the first to suffer when natural resource access comes under pressure, due to cultural restrictions on movement and ownership. This can be seen especially in times of drought, when men migrate with camels to find water, while women and children are expected to stay at home and care for the other livestock.

It is estimated that women provide more than 60% of labor in subsistence farming and such farming is also the first to be affected by drought. As a result, 70% to 80% of internally displaced communities are women and children. Women and children who have become displaced due to drought also face heightened risk of sexual and gender based violence, exacerbated by overcrowded makeshift facilities without adequate safety and security measures.

The Time is Now to celebrate activists working on women’s equality and rights.  

On this International Women’s Day, we in UNDP join the global community celebrating and honoring the work of Somali women activists in the best way possible: by redoubling our efforts to build a world free of discrimination and exclusion and make it possible for all women and men to live lives of dignity and opportunity.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda—which range from ending poverty, to boosting equitable growth and achieving quality education for all—are strongly interconnected, and gender equality is pivotal to achieving all of them. That means that all of us have a role to play in supporting women’s empowerment, at home and in our communities—and in supporting the gender equality goals of the Somali Government’s National Development Plan (NDP).

Together, by achieving women’s equality goals in the NDP and 2030 Agenda, we can ensure that in Somalia and around the world, no woman is left behind.

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