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SOMALIA: Women demand greater role in new government

NAIROBI, 29 November 2004 (IRIN) - A group of 19 Somali NGOs have called for a stronger women's representation in the country's new government, saying women should be given "significant ministries" to reflect their true position in the Somali society.

The demand was contained in a statement issued on Saturday following a week of "informal and formal" meetings in the capital, Mogadishu. Halimo Abdi Arush, of IIDA (Women’s Development Organisation) told IRIN on Monday that the women were demanding "what is rightfully theirs".

"We have been denied what was written in the charter [interim constitution] and we want that rectified," she said, speaking on behalf of the group.

The Somali interim constitution stipulates that 12 percent of members of parliament should be women. However, they only account for eight percent of the 275 parliamentarians, said Halimo.

Halimo said women carried the greatest burden of the Somali society throughout the civil war. "We cared for the weak and the dispossessed," she told IRIN. "It would be unfair to deny the women their rights of political participation at this stage."

The women's appeal is aimed at newly elected President Abdullahi Yusuf and his Prime Minister Ali Muhammad Gedi, she said. "We lost in the parliament, we don't want to lose at the cabinet", Halimo stressed. She also appealed to the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which mediated the Somali peace talks, and the international community to "prevail" on the new government to insure that women are fully represented.

Another women’s activist who signed the statement, Asho Usman Ugas, told IRIN: "We are not lobbying for only the women's percentage in parliament, but we are advocating for a package for women's inclusion in every aspect and level of the new government."

"Women should be treated as women and their share given as such and not as part of clans," she added. If women were treated as part of the clan, she said, "men will never give the rightful share to women".

Abdullahi Yusuf was elected to head Somalia on 10 October by members of the transitional federal parliament sitting in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. He later named Ali Gedi as the new interim prime minister. Yusuf's election was the culmination of a two-year reconciliation conference sponsored by IGAD that brought together representatives from Somalia's various clans and factions.

Somalia ceased to function as a modern state in 1991 when armed groups overthrew the regime of Siad Barre, precipitating a ruinous civil war that saw numerous warring warlords and their militias carve the country into fiefdoms.

Theme (s): Gender Issues,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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