Negative Impacts On Development Of Somali Women History Essay

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Somalia was formed by the union of Italian Somalia and the British Somaliland protectorate, after gained independence in 1960. The main legacy of colonial rule was a centralized system of government which the military, under General Mohammed Siyad Barre, seized in 1969, after nine years of democratic elections and amid accusations of corruption. Barre adopted an anti-tribalism policy of 'scientific socialism' advocating popular participation through local councils and worker committees'.(T, Powers-Stevens.Powers-Stevens 1996. p. 89.). It has been now without a central government after its last president Despot Mohamed S. Barre fled the country in 1991. Following, the fighting among warring groups and clan leaders led to violence in killing innocents, raping, and the daily displacement of the Somali community. However with this discussion the paper will look at Somalia conflict and how women have been strengthened regardless of negative effects of conflicts in Somalia. The conflicts most affected population has accepted their situation and made the best out of it.

The most affected people were in Mogadishu and Baidoa cities where hunger of thousands of people led to an Intervention by the international community, led by the United Nations Peace keeping mission UNISOM "United Nations Operation in Somalia".

The absence of a central administration system for the last four decades, and the country has been under different factional leaders, thought currently there is the so called Somali federal government, which controls less than only 30 percent of the capital of the country. According to UNICEF Reports of 2010 ''indicates that the half of the population of estimated 3.6 Million people lives in a state of humanitarian emergency and over 1.5 million is burdened by violence and instability, extreme poverty, food insecurity due to drought and high prevalence of child protection violations, especially recruitment and use of children and youth in armed conflict as well as other form of sexual violence'' (UNICEF 2010 p. 49.).

Surprisingly the regions which seceded from the former Somali republic, now calling called themselves by independent, its only Somaliland that succeeded from the rest of Somalia. The evidence of its stability among others is free and fair elections and a functional administration since its inception in 1991. Somaliland has achieved many things that are including both the recent free and fair election which to took place in 2010, June 26 and the preceding election one and that was historically achievement in the whole African continent with the emphasise on Security council report that states ''the presidential election- took place in Somaliland on 14 April 2003. That the three candidates representing three political parties were Somaliland's incumbent -president, Dahir Riyale Kahin of the allied people's democratic party (UDUB); Ahmed Muhammed silanyo, a veteran politician of the solidarity party (Kulmiye); and Faysal Ali Warabe, a civil engineer from the diaspora, of the justice and welfare party (UCID). On the 19th April the national electoral commission announced that incumbent 'president' Dahir Riyale had won the election by a margin og 80 votes out of almost 500,000 cast.(Report 2003 p. 5.) and the recently election took in 26th June 2010 peacefully according the report issued by IRI-International Republican Institute ''Somaliland citizens remain committed to developing democratic institutions and carving out a peaceful, self-sufficient nation in the Horn of Africa.  For Somalilanders, the upcoming presidential election is a crucial step in their nation's democratic development.''(IRI 2010). In the above success story of the breakaway region, now a country though not recognized by the international community, the women has been at the centre of this success. The evidence of their indispensable contribution to Somaliland reconciliation by the great role to stop the war that dragged on for long time. This initiative started by women demand to the national council of elders and government, the warring factions. The women demanded as that:-1, the clan war in Berbera must be immediately brought to end, 2. there should not be international military intervention, 3. there needed to be a clean water supply established and 4. There needed to be a police forces established. Gardner and Bushra(2004:146 ) The indispensable role of women is articulated by Abokor cited in Gardener and El Bushra in saying ''women were the wind behind the peace conference from A-Z in term of mobilizing the elders, in preparing the venue, the food, and in encouraging the participants to keep until the final peace accord was reached. And this gives all the credit in making peace possible''(J, Gardner. J, El Bushra 2004. p, 147.)

The Conflict, Political and Security Impact on Somali women

This paper will focus the political history of Somali conflict, and this was very clear that the fighting had begun in the late 80s was mainly limited to the north. Where then the civil war spreads toward the south and middle regions including the capital of Mogadishu until the fighting engulfed the whole country. Resulted the overthrown of Barre's regime in January 1991.

Somalia was under military regime that has been leading the country from 1969 to 1991, and creates a platform of balanced gender in Somalia, ''and number of international conventions were adopted relating to the rights Somali women including the convention of the elimination of all forums to discrimination against women, but none has been signed or ratified''(Powers-Stevens 1996 p.93). Somali women were enjoying at that time their roles as a citizen. Barre's administration issue law that made both gender to be the same under the law, and give the women same right and opportunity as men do and that led women to became and hold the highest position ranks in the administration, as long their ranks were varies from profession to profession but they were included, such as colonels, pilots, ambassadors and as well as judges.

We argue with this paper, that gender was equal under the Somali law thought there was a cultural and religion misconceptions and diversion within the Somali society that were in place.

The emergencies situation discourses in Somalia due to the civil war and famine have created a double impact burden and made less struggles toward in the long and short-term on human development and the empowerment of women.

The prolonged civil war, food insecurity and even the Islamic secularism threat have turned into the women more vulnerable to political and economic insecurities than men. According to the June 2003 report of the Secretary General to the Security Council, which states ''that about 400,000 Somalis are refugees are in the neighboring countries while up to 370,000, are internally displaced have no basic human life support such as water, health and school facilities''(Report 2003 p.6.). Women and children are made the majority of the internally displaced persons living in camps within the country and as well the neighboring countries.

With this paper we argue that by using the Somali proverbs ''Ceelna uma qodna cidna uma maqna'' which mean that they don't have a well to get water, and nobody support them, regarding with this proves the paper, we argues that Somali women became more stronger than they were, and the reason is that the life without the basic human support are entire critical to the human life to lives and the females faces daily such horrible man-made disasters and that they undergo the double burden discourse such as war, famine, and as well rape, killing and looting which is daily consequential problem, which made them to be very strong and endurable to condition.

Somali women become more productive as their husbands, brother and sons joins the warring militias and being absent in their supporting, and with this reality women have gained greater responsibility and run even the micro economy in the country. Of course the larger businesses are controlled and run by men, but ''Recognition by women of the necessity of petty trading has also led to some co-operation, including that between women from different clans which will be important in future periods of peace and reconciliation. Women have pooled their resources and strengths, increasing the potential of their livelihood strategies. Women with some education assist illiterate women and groups have established small co-operatives. In many cases women are forced to hire men, often relatives, to protect their stores, sleep in shops and warehouses, activities which are socially precluded for women'' (Bennett et al 1995).

Human rights violation and the violence against women

The challenge of civil war can be summarized as follows. Civil war imposes high costs on the warring people, country especially the poor country, and similarly will inflict even higher costs on future generation. It effects on education, health and infrastructure of the country, but it is wisely agreed that civil war causes not only destruction and wiping out of a complete generation, but furthermore it deteriorates and leaves bad impact on the sustainability on human and economy development.

The wars are secret and the source that form the human right abuses, the violence against human are deeply prompt on both women and the children, and it is therefore, widely known that militias and other gunmen in Somalia rapes women and girls of opposing clans and other vulnerable groups, predominantly the internally displaced people such as the minority groups of Bantu, Midgan, Tumal, Yibir, Bravanese and also wealthier Benadiri communities and according to a report issued on Wednesday 24 November 2010 ''minorities such as the Bantu and Gaboi suffer even more than the general population in war-torn Somalia, and this recently published news report reveals that, these groups suffer abuses including summary executions, beheadings and rape. This because they are not protected by the traditional powerful clan structure, quoted from the minority right group international. The Mark Lattimer, the group's executive director, point out that the worst is definitely in south central Somalia, where much of the territory is more controlled by al shebaab, by Islamist militia, there are acute human rights abuses, including a great problem of the curtailment of religious freedom. Many traditional Somali Muslim religious practices are being suppressed by al shebaab. Who follow a very exclusionary ideology; He adds that his group has noted widespread rape as well as executions, torture, forcible displacement and expropriation of land.''( 2010), and this is why the ''conflict has led decreased mobility for Somali women due to the threat and fears of rape'' (J, Gardner. J, El Bushra 2004 p.69). So that human rights abuses in Somalia are unaccounted for and those who pay the highest prices are the minority clans especially those who do not have support with strong clan or military strength. Women who have been raped, suffers health issue related during their forced sexual assault.

The stigmatization causes that the women cannot contacted or consulted with doctors after they have been raped, unless they have other serious injuries and this is a difficult to conceive by the doctor whether they have raped or not. Regarding to the Human right watch reports in 1994 that ''Somali women who have raped face not only the physical and psychological trauma of rape, but also the likelihood of rejection by their families. Due the strong cultural stigma is attached to rape in Somalia. In numerous cases, families have begged UNHCR officials to take their daughter to another camp after she has been raped because of the stigma on the family''(HRW 1994 p.16). Gender relation in pre-conflict Somalia was distinguished of culture in which men are the most powerful in social system and that creates the gap between the genders in the terms of economy and political involvement.

Economic, security and rights

This term paper will scrutinize, that the Somali people has the highest illiteracy rate, and it is estimated that eighty percent are illiterate where ''17 percent of Somali children go to school and one in four men and 13 percent of Somali women are literate in today's Somalia. A total of 81 percent can neither read nor write'' (afrol news). And this indicates that the last three generation of Somali children lost their education since the infrastructure collapsed in 1991.

The contributory of the gender inequality in the educational system has vividly increased since then, where twice as many boys compared to girls entering primary school due to cash impoverished families choose to invest in sons over their daughters.

The other important issues that destroys the Somali communities and their economy system it the narcotic chewing leaves called 'Qaat' or kat is an evergreen shrub, Catha edulis, of Arabia and Africa, it effects not only the health status of community but also it is a financial drain.

Though it is a financial drain to the community, on the other hand it financial support and income generation to the poor families where most the Somali women involves trading this is background from poor families, and it is therefore micro-economy that helps many poor families who does supportive men.

In pre-conflict Somalia, 76 per cent of the Somali labor forces were involved in agriculture (UNDP 1995) where the most women participate in the economy system of the families and their connection in the economy system was succeed to elucidate the large numbers of women involved in a small scale trading particularly garden produce which was vital to the household and livelihoods.

The Somali ethnic minorities groups suffered more than other Somalis do in the economic sphere. ''A third to half of the Bantu population in Somalia have been killed or displaced. Without land men and women are forced to hire themselves out as day laborers on plantations. Average salaries for such work are between 5,000 and 20,000 Somali Shillings ($1-$4)'' (Prendergast 1995:270), in contrast to the south, the food economy in Somaliland is becoming stronger and stabilizing.

Women and the peace

This paper reviews the role and the participation of the Somali women and as well their traditional role. Traditionally in Somalia, women cannot stand for clans and are not even respected as a clan member that limits their involvement in the Somali political dilemma.

On the other hand, with no clan or group belonged, this neutrality has given women greater opportunities to engage in cross clan coalition building. For example, ''at Arta Peace conference, women from different clan came together to form the sixth clan, so women could participate formally in the peace negotiation''(Dina R, Edith Natukunda - ,T 2005 p.53.). Hence the Somali people are oral societies, both men and women, are highly regarded as orators. Women's viewpoints are heard within the range of family and valued, even though, women are not frequently in the community and public conferences, but women also lend a hand to the attempts for the peace reconciliation conferences, by shaping the formal the ongoing peace and dialog processes, for example, '' marched up and down between the groups demonstrating and singing 'buraanbur' the women's poems''(J, Gardner. J, El Bushra 2004. p.143.). By their exclusiveness in the clan system, they are commonly immune and have no problem being envoy between the clans in the war. Somali women born naturally into one disputing clan and married into the other often deem loyalty for both clans and work firmly to lower tensions between them and at the same time women are dual connected morally with one tribe she is married and the one she was born for, and this opportunity gives them to be free to move in the hostile areas. Besides that, between their traditional roles was also the mediation in the family problems for example, Somali women may work out the disputes at the family and relative stages and ensuring good, decent and fair relationships between her daughters and their husbands. They are very good at settling down such family issues, when the situation sometimes reaches that even the family to break out; mediator (Somali women) gives the children the first priority and helping finding solution to the issue within the family and that is culturally the women to dissolve the family crisis.

Besides that, it is a women's role to provide for guests to her household, foods, and other necessary that guest may needs for their lodging, travel without ever consulted by the her male partner (husbands) this made women to be very skillful in performance of helping and contribute to the needy families more than men do in Somali society. The stability and retaining the economy was the crucial point for whole community as general, and to preserve the basic livelihood for the families. In view of that, we can understand that the Somali women are the backbone of the Somali society in general.

Looking the other historical participation that women did for the ''reconciliation conferences which took place in Somaliland during 1992, have remained male dominated activities in which women did not take a direct role. According to Farah (1993), northern Somali women enthusiastically support local forums but this support is confined to provide tradition domestic service. In the south, where the UN has facilitated high profile peace conferences, women have been present. However, women's presence doesn't necessarily represent participation''(Dina R, Edith Natukunda - Powers-Stevens 1996. p.94.). With studying and comparing Somali issue case we observe the roles of Somali women within the Somali community in many perspectives sides. We saw, their roles are huge and different, reflecting from time to time with their specific circumstance, place, and the moment they are. But with this short analyzing, the paper tried that it covers the most important parts and shed light those issue with supporting of other relevant literatures, reports collected by the international organization and as well as other concerned scholars who had done research on the Somali women issues.


Somalia needs peace and prosperity but how, Somalia should follow their brother's footstep in Somaliland, where peace was initiated from the grassroot, it has been quite extraordinary and challenges with the Somaliland community to build a ruined country and made peace to everyone. And in terms of other African countries, the Somalilanders are very democratic people, their society is quite flat one, they don't have kind, dictator or things like.

They have a nomadic background, the family and clans are very powerful, so the elders who are in fact rules, and the thing that held Somaliland together is the elder and it has not been democratic whole the way process, but whenever new matter is raised then the clan elders 'the Gurti' intervenes and made their decision. And that decision based the overall interest in the country and people shared, not person or groups and that is what they are differ from the rest of Somalia and other African country.

The ratification of Somaliland's constitution brings an end to the clan-based system. The new constitution establishes a foundation for women's political rights. Women can vote and run for public offices. The strong influence of women in elections is being felt and recognized. However, both religious beliefs and tradition are likely to weigh heavily against women's full political participation or election to public offices. In the Somaliland, traditional peace agreements ''seals the peace treaty between warring parties, women were traditionally exchanged. This practice was followed in some of the major Somaliland peace settlements. So the reconciling Habar Yunis and Isa muse agree to exchange fifty wives from each group at sheikh conference''(Ioan M. Lewis 2010, p.165). The value of Somali women within the Somali society is huge, after the civil war has erupted in Somalia created to open the doors of the gender balance where the misconception and old traditional behavior has been change regarding the old Somali proverbs say 'One boy is equal to four girl' but that term is not applicable this time. Women need help from because without women, life will be easy.