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In five days, on September 10, the Somali Parliament will elect the next President of Somalia. Dr. Shukria Dini has written an open letter to Somali clan elders, who were responsible for nominating the candidates for the commitee-elected, newly formed Somali Parliament.

Dear clan leaders,

When the Signatories of the Road Map gave you the mandate of nominating and selecting the next Parliamentarians, without hesitation, you all accepted the responsibility. However, the majority of you have failed to meet these responsibilities. You have defied the Garowe II Agreement that guarantees the inclusion of women in the next Parliament and ensures their minimum 30 percent representation as one of the principles for the implementation of the Road Map. As clan leaders, who were entrusted with the selection tasks, you have not only failed to fulfil the women’s quota but deliberately also violated Somali women’s political right; their right to be part of the next political institutions – including the Parliament.

Some of you openly opposed the inclusion and selection of women to the Parliament. But remarks such as “women need to be at home and take care of their children” and “this project of including women in Parliament is a foreign project – thus, we will not accept it” are not only patriarchal but also ignorant and detrimental to the peace building process in Somalia.

You knew all too well what the task entailed. What changed after the baton of drawing the path to a new Somali was handed over to you? Your decision to exclude women from the lists of next Parliamentarians, which you submitted to the Technical Selection Committee (TSC), can be translated into two things. First, your decision lacks any understanding of the reality of the reversed gender roles and relations that emerged out of the disintegration of Somali society. The crisis proved that Somali women are as important agents of change and builders at family, community and national levels as men are. You simply overlooked and denied the most productive segment of the Somali society, who could have played essential roles in rebuilding state institutions.

Second, your decision really indicated that you are only ‘clan leaders’ to men. Are not women your constituents? It was them whom you turned to for all kinds of support at the height of war, yet they now don’t seem to be of any importance as Somalia opens a new chapter. You gave into the pressure that men from your own clan placed on you; you listened to men, you also accepted resources in exchange of nominating men and future rewards in post nomination.

Having witnessed the contempt with which the clan leaders approached women’s issues, it is paramount that Somali women chart their own path if their voices have to be heard. Somali women should form their own wise women club or similar organisations, and in this way advance and uphold the interests of women and girls. Put simply, the male traditional clan structure will not change and will remain patriarchal. Therefore, the only way women can gain representation and recognition is to detach themselves from this gender-blind system and to establish their own voice and representation to advance their interests.

Dr. Shukria Dini
Director of Somali Women’s Studies Centre