Somalia's prime minister this month announced a 30 percent quota for female lawmakers chosen in upcoming elections. If upheld by the clans, it would raise the number of female representatives in parliament by 6% — but women's groups see even that slight jump as doubtful in patriarchal Somalia.
Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble's spokesman, Mohamed Ibrahim, says that the prime minister has pledged to solicit the support of clan elders and all stakeholders in his efforts to reach the 30 percent quota.
But Somalia's female activists remain skeptical that the male-dominated clans, who will choose lawmakers in the indirect election, will follow the government's lead.
Jawahir Barqab, chairwoman of the Benadir Women Organization, says Somali male leaders' history of ignoring the importance of women's input has had clear costs.
She says that since men killed each other, destroyed the country, and still do not agree, women have realized it is their turn to show leadership, beginning with the 30 percent quota in both houses of parliament.
Women currently have 24 percent of the seats.
Female leaders note that mothers and wives have played a key role in reconciling communities torn apart by years of conflict in Somalia.
Hanifa Habsade, Somalia's Minister of Women and Human Rights Development, says that women are more than 50 percent of the population and deserve the right to equal representation in the executive and legislative branches of government. Women's rights are a new phenomenon in Somali culture, she adds, but women deserve more seats.
The vote in Somalia is to take place by February 8, but may be postponed while political leaders try to finalize the election process.