Global Somali women launch movement to play an important role in politics

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Founders of the Somali Gender Equity Movement in Minneapolis. [Courtesy of SOMGEM]

Speaking thousands of miles away from their homeland, a group of Somali women from the diaspora Saturday night launched a movement in Minneapolis that would advocate for equal political representation for women in Somalia’s government.

Fed up by the lack of enough women in the country’s decision making process, this women-led movement wants to be a reckoning force in the upcoming presidential election in 2016.

The Somali Gender Equity Movement (Kacdoonka Sinnaanta Jinsiga Soomaaliyeed) aims to unite Somali women and provide them a platform that would help them participate in the country’s reconstruction and its nascent political process.

Colorfully and sharply dressed, the event was a sight to behold.

Zainab M. Hassan, founder of the movement, said the group has members from all over the world and all across Somalia, including  Benadir, Puntland and Somaliland regions.

She created a Facebook page two months ago and invited a few of her friends to the page, and the friends in turn invited their friends. The page has more than 9,000 members and growing. Zeinab reiterated that this is the “beginning of a movement that will do great things for women.”

“Women’s contribution is critical to the development of our society,” she said.

The women speakers came from around the world.

Attended listen to a speak during the launch of Somali Gender Equity Movement in Minneapolis on June 13, 2015. [Sahan Journal]

Attendees listen to a speaker during the launch of Somali Gender Equity Movement in Minneapolis on June 13, 2015. [Sahan Journal]

Muhubo Ahmed Said, popularly known as Muhubo Fabulous, one of the speakers who has established a powerful presence on social media, was very loud, assertive and passionate. She reminded her audience that their people back home depended on them to do good work that will help them; that the voices of Somali women matter.

“Somali women have arrived, they are not waiting for permission,” Muhubo said. “People back home are depending on us to do good so that they can benefit from our efforts.”

Sheikh Abdirahman Sharif, the main theologian for the night, urged the attendees both men and women of their role to making positive and honest contributions to their community.

There was an emotional moment when one of the speakers, Fadumo Hiraad, the first female Somali reporter for Radio Mogadishu and also a singer, called her daughter, Sahra Omar Dhule, to the stage. The two hugged each other. This sewed the audience to the speakers and from that point the two were inseparable henceforth. The theme of the their speech was to remind the women to remember their history and preserve it and perpetuate it.

Fadumo told the audience in attendance that the women in her generation went through more hardships. Their environment was not conducive for change because of entrenched bigotry against women, but that notwithstanding, they made some gains and that it is the obligation of this generation to take over from them and move forward the struggle for gender equity in the Somali community.

“Women did not have the economic means to fight oppressions but they were resourceful in their efforts,” Fadumo told the audience. “They, for example, sewed clothes, made jewelry, and sold them to finance the efforts of their struggles.”

“Women, know your history and the contributions you made to the overall struggle. And then build on that.”

The reception of the gathering was positive and optimistic about the role women will play in the future in women’s representation in every sphere of the Somali community.

“Women will make important contributions to the Somali community,“ said Lul H. Kulmiye, the moderator of the event. “They will do this using the force of their minds–and not force of their muscles,” insinuating that women will do things differently than what men have always done.

Ruqia Mohamed of Minnesota, an attendee who works in Somalia, said, “Her goal is to get as many of Somalis living abroad to go back to Somali to help with the rebuilding effort.”

“Your education and skills is badly needed back home,” she said.

Hassan Ahmed is a freelance writer in Minneapolis and Sahan Journal contributor. He can be reached at hassan.noor.ahmed@gmail.com.

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