Somali women can be agents of political change and promoters of peace and security

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Istanbul, 23 February 2016 – A high-profile event on women, peace and security on the opening day of the third ministerial High-Level Partnership Forum (HLPF) asserted the rights of Somali women to become protagonists in the politics, security and state-building agenda of their country.

The federal Minister of Women and Human Rights Development, H.E. Zahra Samantar, welcomed participants to a breakfast event entitled Women, Peace and Security: Investing in Peacemakers and Social Rebuilders. The event was jointly organized by her ministry and the Ministry of Interior and Federal Affairs with support from the United Nations and was co-hosted by the governments of Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the United Kingdom.

“We must be given the tools to influence politics,” said the minister, stressing the benefits of giving Somali women greater political participation. “Giving women more participation can only lead to a better society and generate a more equitable distribution of wealth.”

The UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Somalia, Michael Keating, praised the decision to reserve 30 per cent of the seats in the upper and lower houses of the country’s next parliament for Somali women. Both houses are scheduled to be elected in August 2016.

“Somalia is at an exciting, critical stage in the state formation and state building process,” said SRSG Keating. “Opportunities for women to participate in this process must be spotted and seized.”

Mr. Keating cited the 2016 electoral process, the constitutional review process and the creation of a road map to one-person, one-vote elections in 2020 as three promising opportunities for creating momentum for greater political empowerment of women.

Summarizing the outcome of the proceedings, UN Women Country Programme Manager for Somalia Caroline Rusten noted that the aim of the meeting was to focus attention on the need for increased security, access to justice and political participation for women to promote the stability and prosperity of Somalia.

Ms. Rusten highlighted the urgency to recognize Somali women as agents of change and noted that peace is more dynamic and sustainable when they are fully included. She also cited the need to leverage collection action to enhance the representation and engagement of women in setting Somalia’s agenda and priorities in the coming years.

”Somali women have been portrayed mostly as victims, and insufficient recognition has been given to their role and contribution as transformational agents,” said Ms. Rusten.

Participants urged the Somali government to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women and address gender equality issues and the contribution that Somali women can make towards consolidating peace and security in the government’s forthcoming National Development Plan.