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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 28 Jan 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Three Turkish Women, Didem Nişancı, Ozge Guzelsu and Naz Durakoglu To Serve Under Biden Administration


New Age Islam News Bureau

29 January 2021

 • Headscarves for Muslim Women As Part Of South African Military Uniform

• First Group Of Saudi Female Football Referees Receive Accreditation

• Swiss Religious Leaders Say Ban On Burqas Violates Religious Freedom

• Fans Spot Zayn Malik’s New Tattoo Of Daughter’s Name In Arabic

• Pakistan Lacks A Consumer Base Of Women Who Understand Fashion: Style Extraordinaire Maheen Khan

• 'Violence Starts At Home': The Afghan Women Tackling Domestic Abuse At Its Source

• Pak-Afghan Lawmakers Launch Group For Women Parliamentarians

• US Condemns Killing of Two Women by IS in Syria

• Somali women eye seats in government dominated by men

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL:   https://www.newageislam.com/islam-women-and-feminism/new-age-islam-news-bureau/three-turkish-women-didem-ni%C5%9Fanc%C4%B1-ozge-guzelsu-and-naz-durakoglu-to-serve-under-biden-administration/d/124177

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 Three Turkish Women, Didem Nişancı, Ozge Guzelsu and Naz Durakoglu  To Serve Under Biden Administration

 

Three Turkish-American women will serve in the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, who took office on Jan. 20.

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January 29 2021

Three Turkish-American women will serve in the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, who took office on Jan. 20.

Didem Nişancı, former global head of public policy for Bloomberg LP, became the chief of staff for Janet Yellen, the new treasury secretary.

Nişancı worked for four years as chief of staff at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in the Obama administration, where among other duties she served as chief White House liaison.

She also served as staff director of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on Securities, Insurance and Investment, including in the wake of the 2007-2009 global financial crisis.

The second Turkish-American to work under the Biden administration is Özge Güzelsu, a lawyer who was appointed as the deputy chief legal advisor of the Department of Defence.

Özge Güzelsu, who previously worked as a lawyer in California and later served on the Senate Military Committee, graduated from both Harvard and Stanford, leading universities in the world.

Naz Durakoğlu became the first Turkish-American to be appointed to the U.S. Department of State at the highest level in its history.

She has been elected as the senior deputy undersecretary for congressional relations at the Department of State.

Durakoğlu served as senior adviser to Victoria Nuland, deputy secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs in the Obama administration between 2015 and 2017.

https://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/three-turkish-woman-to-serve-under-biden-administration-161997

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Headscarves for Muslim Women As Part Of South African Military Uniform

South Africa’s Army Allows Hijab For Muslim Women

 

A woman wearing a face mask as a precaution against the coronavirus outbreak walks on the street in downtown Johannesburg, South Africa, Jan. 26, 2021. (AP Photo)

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29 Jan 2021

The South African military has amended its dress policy to allow Muslim women to wear headscarves as part of their uniform, an army spokesperson said on Thursday.

In January last year, a military court dropped charges against an officer who had been indicted for wearing a hijab under her military beret.

Major Fatima Isaacs had been criminally charged in June 2018 with willful defiance and failing to obey lawful instructions after her superior asked her to remove her headscarf when in uniform.

A military court at the Castle of Good Hope near Cape Town withdrew all charges in January 2020, making an exception for Isaacs to wear a tight black wrap on her head on duty as long as it did not cover her ears.

But the military did not amend its dress policy, prompting Isaacs to mount a challenge in South Africa’s equality court over regulations restricting religious wear.

The South African Defence Force (SANDF) eventually agreed to amend its policy this week and allow all Muslim women to cover their heads while on duty.

“The SANDF dress regulation was updated to allow the wearing of headscarves by Muslim (women) according to stipulations in the dress regulations,” spokesman Mafi Mgobozi told the AFP news agency on Thursday.

The South Africa-based Legal Resources Centre, which represented Isaacs, welcomed the decision via Twitter on Wednesday and said it was withdrawing the equality court case.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/1/29/south-africas-army-lifts-hijab-ban-for-muslims

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First group of Saudi female football referees receive accreditation

January 29, 2021

JEDDAH: The Saudi Football Federation (SFF) announced this week that it had approved the first batch of Saudi female referees as part of its efforts to develop women’s participation in the game in the Kingdom.

The SFF Referees Committee, in cooperation with the Women’s Football Development Department, approved 63 female referees to work under the federation’s umbrella. The referees attended two training programs in 2020, in Dammam in September, and in Riyadh in October, where they met with female referees from Jordan and Lebanon, who shared their experiences with the young trainees.

“It was a very enriching and encouraging experience, and gave us huge motivation and confidence in our abilities,” Lulwah Al-Dosari, one of the approved referees, told Arab News. “It is totally different when you meet someone who has already achieved something big. They told us how they had once been like us.

“I’ve been a big fan of football since a very young age, but we never had such a chance to develop and improve our abilities,” she added.

Saudi Arabia’s Women’s Football League (WFL) launched in November and saw 24 teams from Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam competing for the trophy and a $133,000 cash prize. Al-Dosari refereed one of the games, between Al-Shula and United Eagles in Dammam — having completed a FIFA training course in Dubai.

Sham Al-Ghamdi, the first Saudi woman to referee an official match, having completed the same FIFA course as Al-Dosari, said SFF accreditation was something she has been “seeking for years.”

“I traveled a lot and enrolled in many courses and tried to understand all details about football despite the lack of opportunities in the Kingdom until recently,” she told Arab News. Saudi women have only been able to attend football matches since 2018.

“Meeting with international referees was a unique experience and its benefits were beyond my expectations. It was an honor for me to be part of this program,” she continued. “This is the beginning of a long journey.”

Retired referee Abdulsalam Muhanna is the founder and chairman of Al-Marred Academy, which ran the Dammam training program.

“I noticed that there were no female referees or programs that supported them,” he told Arab News.

He approached the SFF to propose a training course. “The federation supported the project and made it available for participants from across the Kingdom,” he added.

Muhanna said that his academy has witnessed “great demand and interest from women in various sports,” but that facilities are lacking throughout the Kingdom. He hopes sports clubs will invest in creating facilities to help out the next generation of female athletes, coaches and referees.

Al-Ghamdi anticipates a bright future for women’s sports in the Kingdom.

“The passion is there, the skill is there and the support is also there,” she said. “I have hope that we will have a very impressive future as referees and players, and we can prove ourselves on the regional and international stage.”

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1800271/sport

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Swiss Religious Leaders Say Ban On Burqas Violates Religious Freedom

January 29, 2021

Switzerland's Catholic Church has joined other religious groups in opposing a proposed ban on Muslim head coverings, arguing it would "disproportionately" restrict religious freedom.

The statement was published on the bishops' conference website amid preparations for a March 7 referendum on a law to ban "covering the face in public," introduced by members of the center-right Swiss People's Party.

The bishops said freedom "to choose and shape ways of life, lifestyles and orientations" was a core value of Switzerland's liberal democracy, adding that religious leaders would reject "all ideologically and sociopolitically motivated attempts" to interfere with constitutionally protected religious expressions.

"Covering the body due to religious conviction ... constitutes an external symbol of worshipping God," the bishops' conference said in a joint statement with the Swiss Council of Religions. The statement also was signed by Protestant, Orthodox, Muslim and Jewish leaders.

The government, headed by chancellor Walter Thurnherr, has previously argued rules on head covering should be left to the country's 26 cantons, of which St. Gallen and Ticino already ban the burqa, the all-covering dress worn by some Muslim women.

A ban on Muslim minarets, also introduced by the Swiss People's Party, was voted through in a 2009 referendum.

The church and religious leaders said "prescriptions on covering face and body" differed among religious communities, but generally expressed "traditional views on gender that have been increasingly rejected throughout the Western world."

However, they added that the burqa was worn by very few Muslim women in Switzerland, who would face "two conflicting forms of pressure: the religious requirement to cover the face and compulsion exerted by the state to refrain."

"The concealment of female identity in the public sphere is frequently viewed as expressing gender inequality. This perception is not, however, shared by all women concerned," the statement said.

"This initiative claims to have public security as a goal. In reality, it is directed toward an exceedingly small minority of the population and does not resolve any problems."

The religious leaders said the Swiss government's counterproposal, requiring faces to be revealed for official identification, appeared "reasonable and proportionate."

The burqa and other head coverings were banned in France and Belgium in 2001, and in Bulgaria, Austria, Denmark and parts of Spain between 2017 and 2018.

Although the Netherlands became the latest to impose a ban in August 2019, with fines and potential jail terms, human rights groups have argued prohibitions are unworkable and violate religious freedom, while police and transport companies often have been unwilling to enforce them.

https://www.ucanews.com/news/swiss-religious-leaders-say-ban-on-burqas-violates-religious-freedom/91199#

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Fans Spot Zayn Malik’s New Tattoo Of Daughter’s Name In Arabic

January 27, 2021

DUBAI: Zayn Malik just added a new tattoo to his ink collection, and it might be his most thoughtful one yet: The name of his and Gigi Hadid’s baby daughter, Khai, written in Arabic on the inside of his wrist.

Eagle-eyed fans spotted the new ink on the former One Direction star during one of his Instagram Lives, which was recorded before their four-month-old daughter’s name was revealed.

Part-Palestinian Hadid revealed their baby girl’s unique name in an under-the-radar manner that saw her update her Instagram bio to say “Khai’s mom.” Though Hadid did not publicize the change, internet sleuths caught on quickly, and the news soon started trending on Twitter.

As it turns out, Malik is a fan of using tattoos to immortalize important people in his life.

For instance, the popstar has his grandfather's name in Arabic inked on his skin, as well as his father's own moniker. Other meaningful tattoos include Hadid’s eyes on his chest.

The couple’s daughter’s name has been reported to be a nod to Hadid’s paternal grandmother named Khairiah.

The pair have been relatively private when it comes to their daughter and have yet to share a picture of Khai with the public. However, the model often posts sweet snaps of her daughter’s tiny hand grasping her finger.

The couple welcomed their first child together in September. At the time, Malik announced the news by writing: “Our baby girl is here, healthy and beautiful. To try to put into words how I am feeling right now would be an impossible task. The love I feel for this tiny human is beyond my understanding. Grateful to know her, proud to call her mine, and thankful for the life we will have together.”

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1799361/lifestyle

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Pakistan Lacks A Consumer Base Of Women Who Understand Fashion: Style Extraordinaire Maheen Khan

January 29, 2021

Ace designer and style extraordinaire Maheen Khan is dubbed as the ‘pillar’ of Pakistan’s fashion industry, according to Arabian Moda, and in a recent interview with the outlet, she has proven why that is so.

With successful labels under her belt, Khan, at the age of 75, is still holding her own in the local fashion scene. Her expertise has lent her the pleasure of dressing the late Benazir Bhutto, Kate Middleton, Jemima Goldsmith and Princess Sarvath al-Hassan among other dignitaries.

In her recent conversation with Haider Rifaat, Khan spoke about the state of the global fashion business amid the pandemic, under-representation of plus-sized models in Pakistan and the 2021 edition of Fashion Pakistan Week (FPW)

“It has been a challenging time for the fashion industry,” she said. “Some have weathered the change and some sadly, have not. The top and bottom end of the market have stayed afloat but as always, those in between have suffered,” cried the maven.

She reinstated how small brands and emerging designers have not been able to sustain. And how could they, when only the designers who could pull off solo fashion shows were able to showcase their collections amid the absence of collective fashion weeks altogether. As for the virtual shows that are taking place worldwide, Khan claimed that they’re just keeping the brand’s “imagery alive.”

However, as the Chairperson of FPW, Khan detailed what we should expect from the upcoming event slated for this year. “FPW 2021 will be a two day exclusive affair that would highlight fashion and design. The outdoor luxe setting is carefully curated with 100 guests.”

She revealed how the event will embrace the new digital format being practiced globally and the organisers “have decided to present the collections with a runway show to support the fashion system and the city of Karachi.”

But about embracing healthier, plus-sized models, Khan clarified, “We already have. Fashion Pakistan Week saw collections from two designers for generous sized non-model women. What is important to understand is that fashion sells an image, and an important part of it is the packaging.”

So what does Pakistan’s fashion industry really lack? The answer is, “a consumer base of women who understand fashion,” according to Khan.

Standing up for her industry, like always, Khan asserted, “In the present circumstances, can you blame designers if we see more embellishments and less or hardly any silhouette? How many women in Pakistan want to wear a stunning silhouette sans embroidery to a wedding? I rest my case,” the veteran asserted.

https://tribune.com.pk/story/2281850/pakistan-lacks-a-consumer-base-of-women-who-understand-fashion-maheen-khan

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'Violence Starts At Home': The Afghan Women Tackling Domestic Abuse At Its Source

Stefanie Glinski

29 Jan 2021

Nabila felt her diesel-drenched clothes stick to her skin, her lungs filling with fumes, hot panic rising.

It hadn’t been the first time an argument with her husband had escalated: he’d been beating her throughout their 30-year marriage, even tying her to a tree in the garden outside their small home in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul, leaving her freezing in the winter cold.

But after the attempt to set her on fire Nabila – who asked for only her first name to be used – ran away for good.

Four years on, the 50-year-old lives in a small apartment with her mother, working as a cook and cleaner at a private school, haunted by the abuse, and afraid her undercover life might one day be exposed.

“I had wanted to divorce him for a long time,” she says, “but I didn’t even know where to seek help. I’d like to write down my life’s story one day so everyone can read it – especially women in similar situations.”

About 87% of Afghan girls and women experience abuse in their lifetime, according to Human Rights Watch. A 2009 law on the elimination of violence against women had been celebrated as a hard-won victory by activists, but has since been largely ignored, with few victims able to seek justice.

A new campaign, based in Kabul, is now aiming to lower this figure. The initiative, Talk for Harmony, has partnered with activists, religious scholars and psychologists in a mass media and social media campaign, offering meditation and counselling services to victims and perpetrators, and broadcasting advice on how to handle stress and where to seek help.

“Violence starts at home and it can slowly move out – into the streets, the schools, everywhere. That’s why it needs to be extinguished at the source,” Freshta Farah of the Afghan Women’s Network – the organisation implementing the campaign – told the Guardian.

Farah puts abuse into different categories – verbal, physical and emotional. She says most cases of domestic violence, something mainly experienced by women, never reach court and are solved within families or left unsettled, often dragging on for decades.

“Violence has been normalised in many homes and has become a coping strategy for dealing with external pressures,” says Balqis Ehsan, a research officer at Magenta, the technical organisation that put together the campaign’s videos and radio messages.

“It’s straightforward,” Ehsan says. “We use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to reach both victims and perpetrators and we have partnered with local television and radio stations that play our clips. People can call a free-of-charge number to get help and can even request in-person mediation sessions in Kabul.”

Before the launch of Talk for Harmony, research across eight of the country’s 34 provinces showed that since the coronavirus pandemic began, 35% of respondents – victims and perpetrators – reported an increase in gender-based violence, with a third of all women who took part in the study saying they didn’t know where to go or how to get help.

Among the respondents, 30% thought it “acceptable” to beat a woman who leaves the house without telling anyone, while 17% felt it was “acceptable” to use violence if a woman refused to fulfil their “marital duties”.

“At the start of the pandemic, many families were stuck at home. Economic pressures mounted and in such situations, violence is sometimes used as a first coping strategy,” Ehsan says.

Soraya, 57, a university-educated working mother of five, was married at 13. Even as the family’s main financial provider, she still faces regular verbal and emotional abuse. She asked to be referred to by her first name only.

“Both my husband and I face difficulties – living in a country at war is difficult enough and our society puts additional pressures on us. He deals with it by letting out his anger, by regular outbursts. As a woman, I am expected to hide my feelings,” she says, adding that while she doesn’t feel free, her husband’s permission to let her study and work has opened opportunities for her.

“Violence is not the answer to angry emotions,” Freshta Farah says. Talk for Harmony is scheduled to run for the next two months, but the Afghan Women’s Network hopes that this is just the beginning.

“We have a long way to go to extinguishing domestic violence at its source,” Farah says.

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/jan/29/violence-starts-at-home-the-afghan-women-tackling-domestic-abuse-at-its-source

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Pak-Afghan Lawmakers Launch Group For Women Parliamentarians

JANUARY 29, 2021

Parliamentarians from Pakistan and Afghanistan on Thursday announced a new initiative Women Parliamentarians Beyond Boundaries (WPBB) to push for greater understanding and bilateral cooperation.

The idea was floated by Member National Assembly (MNA) Shandana Gulzar, who said if doctors can operate without boundaries, why can’t public representatives do so by joining hands to serve and guide their people?

Ms Gulzar said this at the Pakistan-Afghanistan Women Parliamentarians’ Dialogue, organized by the Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) and the Organization for Economic Studies and Peace (OESP) in Afghanistan.

The conference was designed to bring together members of parliament and senior female officials from both countries to communicate and collaborate across a wide variety of common goals.

The gathering was inaugurated by Najib Alikhil, the ambassador of Afghanistan to Pakistan, who lauded CRSS’ efforts in expanding and improving people-to-people relations between the two countries and highlighted the women forum as a clear example of the organization’s success. He stated that the stability, security, and prosperity of the two countries was deeply linked, and cooperation needed to be improved in trade and transit, education, health, and security. He was appreciative of the positive recent diplomatic exchanges between the two countries and said that PM Imran Khan’s vision for of peace is achievable with direct contribution of all stakeholders and a comprehensive ceasefire.

Shinkai Karokhail, Member Parliament Afghanistan and leader of the delegation, said that engaging more women can help change the face of Afghan politics. She stated that women’s role in lasting peace is critical, and Afghan women welcome and expect regional women to support them in whatever way possible.

Dr Nausheen Hamid, Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Health, stated that health is a common challenge and shared goal. She briefed the honourable attendees for the efforts out together by the government to both curb the pandemic, while keeping the economy afloat. She led an interactive discussion on what could be jointly pursued in the field of health between the two countries.

Dr Sania Nishtar, the Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety, spoke about the government’s effort to curb poverty and provide financial assistance to the masses, and how this may be replicated in Afghanistan. She said that despite several women-focused programs, even the main EHSAS program was designed on a policy of 50% parity. Her briefing was lauded by Ms. Shinkai, who proposed that the Afghan Women Affairs Minister should visit Pakistan to further connect on this issue.

MNA Mehnaz Akbar Aziz briefed the participants that Pakistan has constituted a special committee on child rights at the SDGs headquarter in the National Assembly. Pakistan is willing to support Afghanistan with any possible assistance in establishing such committees.

Member National Assembly, Dr. Aisha Ghaus Pasha stated whilst delivering her keynote address that after the peace agreement, the Afghan government should work for improving the quality of life for the citizens.

The session concluded on a positive note by Ms. Gulzar who stated that we should work together for bringing peace through development. She further highlighted the importance of measures like educational investments in the form of scholarships for Afghan students, exchange program for Afghan doctors to do specialization in Pakistan, visa relaxations for Afghan patients and medical tourism, and continuation of these meetings in the future either physically or virtually.

https://dailytimes.com.pk/718361/pak-afghan-lawmakers-launch-group-for-women-parliamentarians/

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US Condemns Killing of Two Women by IS in Syria

By Sirwan Kajjo

January 28, 2021

The United States has condemned the killings of two local female officials who were recently kidnapped by militants affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) terror group in northeastern Syria.

The U.S. Embassy in Syria said Thursday that it “was deeply saddened to learn of the deaths of Seda al-Faisal al-Hermas and Hind Latif al-Khidr.”

“We condemn their murder by Daesh terrorists and offer sincere condolences to their families,” the embassy said in a tweet, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

The U.S. Embassy in Damascus suspended its operations in 2012 following a Syrian government crackdown on protesters during the early days of the country’s civil war. The embassy, however, maintains contact with the Syrian public through social media.

Hermas and Khidr reportedly were kidnapped last week from their houses in the town of al-Dashisha, south of the city of al-Hasakah in northeast Syria. Witnesses told local news media that at least eight men, suspected to be part of an IS cell, orchestrated the kidnappings.

Hours after their abductions, the bodies of the two women were found decapitated near a main road in the area, local reports said.

Hermas was the co-chair of her town’s local administrative council, while Khidr was a board member of the same council. The town of al-Dashisha was freed from IS in 2017 by U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Mazloum Abdi, general commander of the SDF, said the killings represented an attack on free women and democratic values.

“We pledge to our people to pursue the criminal cells until justice is achieved,” he said in a tweet this week.

Despite its territorial defeat in March 2019, IS continues to carry out terror attacks against civilians and SDF forces in northeastern Syria, especially in the province of Deir el-Zour.

Last week, IS claimed responsibility for the death of a disabled man in the town of Ghariba in Deir el-Zour. Two days before that, two gunmen on a motorbike killed a member of the SDF-linked Deir el-Zour Civil Council in the town of Abu Khashab. Local media accused IS members of carrying out the attack.

Colonel Wayne Marotto, spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition against IS, said Thursday via Twitter that the coalition’s “goal is stabilization of these areas, which is crucial to ensuring the long-term defeat of Daesh, setting the groundwork for communities to recover, [and] denying terrorists the ability to regenerate or reclaim lost ground.”

https://www.voanews.com/extremism-watch/us-condemns-killing-two-women-syria

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Somali women eye seats in government dominated by men

By: Deutsche Welle

January 28, 2021

Amina Mohamed Abdi, one of the Somali government’s most vocal critics, was 24 when she first ran for parliament in 2012. She won, becoming one of the few women in Somalia’s government. This year, now aged 32, she is running for a third term in postponed elections scheduled for February 8.

But it has not been easy for her in the conflict-ridden country, where men dominate politics. Usually, it is conservative clan elders who decide who will get into parliament. Few think that women should go into politics. “I was asked: ‘You want to be a prostitute? How can a woman represent a clan?'” she told Reuters. “I insisted and said a clan is not composed only of men.”

This year, she is running against five men for the same seat. It is one of 329 seats in the lower and upper houses, only 24% of which are occupied by women.

Prime ministerial support

In mid-January, Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble announced that a third of parliamentary seats should be reserved for female lawmakers.

Women’s rights activists have been calling for this for some time. In July 2020, the lower house of parliament even approved a bill that would allow for this, but it has yet to be passed by the upper house and signed into law by the president.

Deqa Abdiqasim Salad, the founder and CEO of the Hear Woman Foundation, was not impressed by the prime minister’s announcement. “Our mistake was not to push for the 30% quota to be written into the constitution,” she told DW. “If we had, the minimum quota would be policy. Policies cannot be broken easily. Right now, it is just a recommendation.”

She added that she was worried that women would not even manage to win more seats than last time. “We occupy 24% right now, but I believe that those could be lost this year.”

But former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Fawzia Yusuf Haji Adan said the quota is progress, and that a binding quota was a necessary step. “The primary objective of electoral quotas is to reduce gender gaps in representation in electoral lists,” she told DW. “The quotas for women parliamentarians are vital to safeguard the rights of women but it also reflects the population it represents at the parliament.”

Many hurdles for women

As the first woman to have been deputy premier and foreign minister in her country, and now the leader of the National Democratic Party, Adan is very familiar with the obstacles faced by ambitious women in Somali politics.

“The challenges for women are mainly the unending conflict in Somalia and lack of peace and stability, but also the al-Shabab terrorists who are attacking any development and democratic processes,” she said. “Another factor is the lack of finances for many female political aspirants.”

In the upcoming elections, anybody running for a seat in either house of parliament has to pay a registration fee of between $10,000 and $20,000 (€8.200 to €16,400). It is often more difficult for women to come up with such sums than for men, who are more likely to receive funds from businesses and clan members.

‘4.5 rule’ needs to go

There is another problem, said Adan: “The quotas will not help women as long as the 4.5 policy exists in Somalia because traditional elders choose who goes to parliament — and they do not believe in women’s political participation.”

Amina Mohamed Abdi, one of the Somali government’s most vocal critics, was 24 when she first ran for parliament in 2012. She won, becoming one of the few women in Somalia’s government. This year, now aged 32, she is running for a third term in postponed elections scheduled for February 8.

But it has not been easy for her in the conflict-ridden country, where men dominate politics. Usually, it is conservative clan elders who decide who will get into parliament. Few think that women should go into politics. “I was asked: ‘You want to be a prostitute? How can a woman represent a clan?'” she told Reuters. “I insisted and said a clan is not composed only of men.”

This year, she is running against five men for the same seat. It is one of 329 seats in the lower and upper houses, only 24% of which are occupied by women.

Prime ministerial support

In mid-January, Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble announced that a third of parliamentary seats should be reserved for female lawmakers.

Women’s rights activists have been calling for this for some time. In July 2020, the lower house of parliament even approved a bill that would allow for this, but it has yet to be passed by the upper house and signed into law by the president.

Deqa Abdiqasim Salad, the founder and CEO of the Hear Woman Foundation, was not impressed by the prime minister’s announcement. “Our mistake was not to push for the 30% quota to be written into the constitution,” she told DW. “If we had, the minimum quota would be policy. Policies cannot be broken easily. Right now, it is just a recommendation.”

She added that she was worried that women would not even manage to win more seats than last time. “We occupy 24% right now, but I believe that those could be lost this year.”

But former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Fawzia Yusuf Haji Adan said the quota is progress, and that a binding quota was a necessary step. “The primary objective of electoral quotas is to reduce gender gaps in representation in electoral lists,” she told DW. “The quotas for women parliamentarians are vital to safeguard the rights of women but it also reflects the population it represents at the parliament.”

Many hurdles for women

As the first woman to have been deputy premier and foreign minister in her country, and now the leader of the National Democratic Party, Adan is very familiar with the obstacles faced by ambitious women in Somali politics.

“The challenges for women are mainly the unending conflict in Somalia and lack of peace and stability, but also the al-Shabab terrorists who are attacking any development and democratic processes,” she said. “Another factor is the lack of finances for many female political aspirants.”

In the upcoming elections, anybody running for a seat in either house of parliament has to pay a registration fee of between $10,000 and $20,000 (€8.200 to €16,400). It is often more difficult for women to come up with such sums than for men, who are more likely to receive funds from businesses and clan members.

‘4.5 rule’ needs to go

There is another problem, said Adan: “The quotas will not help women as long as the 4.5 policy exists in Somalia because traditional elders choose who goes to parliament — and they do not believe in women’s political participation.”

Duqa Salad of the Hear Woman Foundation said that more support was needed for women. “Civil society should not fail the women they put in parliament; they should support them and hold them accountable,” she said.

Salad said that together, the 30% quota could be achieved: “Not only in politics but in all sectors of society.”

https://indianexpress.com/article/world/somali-women-eye-seats-in-government-dominated-by-men-7165643/

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