Monday, 20 February 2012

Somali women want a voice at London Somalia Conference

 As world leaders meet in London tomorrow to decide Somalia’s future, Somali women living in the UK are calling on Prime Minister David Cameron to ensure that women are not denied a place at the peace table.

Tomorrow,  February 23, senior representatives from more than 40 governments are gathering in London to discuss the transition to a new caretaker government in Somalia.
 Somali women are concerned that if they are not part of the political process, their rights will be ignored or even undermined by the new government.

 Although less than a quarter of girls in Somalia are in primary education and violence against women is rife, a leaked draft of the conference communiqué contains no reference to women’s rights or women’s political participation.

In the past, the UK has played a leading role in pushing the UN to recognise the critical importance of women’s participation in conflict resolution, peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction, helping to create UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which calls on states to include women in decision-making on peace and security.
Despite this, formal negotiations on the transition process have been dominated by foreign governments and Somali elites, who are overwhelmingly male.
 Sheffield-based Somali activist Amina Souleiman spoke with hundreds of Somali women and found there was deep concern about women being ignored by the London conference. She said:

“Somalia has been a failed state for 20 years, and all along, men were in charge.
 The draft communiqué talks about a role for Islamists in Somali politics but says nothing about a role for women. This clearly sends the wrong message and gives the green light to clan, tribal and religious leaders to exclude women from the political process.

 “David Cameron must call on the international community to support the participation of Somali women in the political process, to protect women’s rights and to find a lasting peace in Somalia.” 

Chitra Nagarajan, Director of Gender Action for Peace and Security UK, said:

 “The UK government is failing to join the dots here. After doing so much at the UN to champion women’s important roles in conflict resolution and peacebuilding, will it put that rhetoric into practice at home? If the conference communiqué doesn’t include support for women’s participation and put in place ways to protect and promote their rights, it will be a huge missed opportunity to help build a real peace for Somalia, one that has true meaning for both women and men.”

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