Somali women, who have long been excluded from their country’s political scene, are celebrating a major gain in their movement to increase women’s representation in the nation’s highest levels of decision-making. Parliamentary members and representatives of nongovernmental organizations convened in Aarta, Somalia for a reconciliation conference, establishing a quota system in which 10 percent of the 250 parliamentary seats will be reserved for women. “With all these years of civil war, when there was no administration, it was the women who kept the families alive, who kept the non-governmental organizations going. They won this role,” said Asha Haji Elmi, an economist and head of the Women’s Association.
Although the system will distribute the 25 women’s seats evenly within Somalia’s five clans, which are akin to political parties, women stress that the interests of a particular clan will take a backseat to women’s rights. “We want to be the rainbow coalition, because we come from all the clans and we hope to vote in a block during the election of the (transition) president,” said Elmi. The quota-system was a hard-won gain for Somali women, who endured and overcame the conservatism of traditional and religious leaders.