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Somaliland women demand increased political representation
02 September 2015

Image: IPSHargeisa (IPS) - In Somaliland, a self-declared nation that the international community considers as an autonomous region in Somalia, women activists are optimistic about their chances of pushing through a long awaited quota for women representation in the 82-person Parliament. While Somalia is considered an example of a failed state, Somaliland is often commended for its burgeoning democracy, hosts its own elections, and has its own president. In spite of these positive developments, women are strongly absent from the nation’s decision-making process: currently, there is only one female member of Parliament.

With elections in Somaliland scheduled for July this year, women activists were working towards making a final push for a quota reserving 10 % of the parliament’s seats for women. However, in May earlier this year, the nation’s House of Elders made a disputed decision to postpone upcoming elections until the end of 2016 or beginning of 2017. Critics, amongst them Nicholas Kay, the United Nation’s Special Representative to Somalia, has called the decision detrimental to Somaliland’s democratic credentials.    

In spite of this setback, women and men advocating for gender-equality in the nation’s society and political decision-making process believe that conditions for gaining important advances for their cause have improved. According to Bar Seed, the only female member of Parliament, “the public’s opinion is changing”, and women have become better at putting pressure on political parties to support their access to political representation and empowerment.

There are, however, still many cultural and religions barriers in the way for women to reach their goals. Somaliland’s deeply entrenched clan system means that individual candidates at elections need the endorsement of the clan leaders, who are more likely to support the, in their view, stronger male candidate. Another challenge lies in convincing the nation’s women - who make up about 60 % of the voting bloc - to vote for female candidates.

With the elections postponed until an as yet unspecified future date, Somaliland’s women’s right activists have gained additional time to lobby and put pressure on the relevant political and social actors who can help make a reality of their ambition for improved political representation. 

Full story and photo credits available at: IPS