Women's Economic Security

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Since restoring independence in 1991, Somaliland has made remarkable progress in achieving peace and stability through its own local resources with little outside help. The people of Somaliland managed to establish a functioning government and embarked on rebuilding their country and livelihoods. Since 2000, referendum, local councils, presidential and parliament elections have been successfully conducted and a large number of displaced and refugee families have been able to return home. However, despite creating an island of stability and unique democratic governance in the Horn of Africa region, the government of Somaliland has not yet been officially recognised by the international community, and thus has neither access to bilateral and multilateral agreements, nor representation at potentially important international debates and negotiations, such as trade. (Women’s economic report, Nagaad, 2010)

Women make up over 60% of business owners in Somaliland, but still severely lack equal participation and representation in government and the private sector. (The role of women in the private sector in Somalia/Somaliland, UNDP, 2010)

Many studies have highlighted the fact that women in Somaliland constitute both the majority of the population, as well as, the majority of the poor. These studies further elucidate that women’s poverty is closely related to the denial of their rights to economic opportunities and participation in decision-making processes both at the national and local levels.

Women and minority groups have equal rights as other citizens, as well as their own separate rights, as clearly explained in many legal articles in national laws, such as Somaliland Constitution article 8 (1) that establishes that all citizens shall enjoy equal rights and obligations before law, and shall not be accorded precedence on grounds of colour, clan, birth, language, gender etc..; article 36 92) on the rights of women, that clearly states that the Government shall encourage and shall legislate for the right of women to be free of practices that which are contrary to Sharia and which are injurious to their person and dignity (FAO, Carolina and Nimco, 2013).

Women are proud of the rights provided to them under the Sharia and they don’t advocate for the definition of these rights, but all they want is to have these rights enforced to enable women to enjoy it as equal citizens and as men. Sometimes, people may mix sharia with the traditional practices, which may not necessarily match.

Furthermore, in comparison to many other Muslim countries, Somali women acquired relatively more freedom to become educated, to engage in businesses, and to travel. This is largely because of the mobile pastoralist Somali background, as well as, the moderate branch of Islam, which does not limit women’s world to the family home. However, though some women had access to economic opportunities, and may have attained economic independence, the overall status of women remains unchanged (Access to justice for women in Somaliland, UNDP 2009).

The causes and experience of women’s poverty is mainly related to the differential roles and responsibilities of women and men which are socially constructed and traditionally inherited. These roles constrain women’s scope of independent activities and confine them to a narrow range of income-earning or employment opportunities (Asmahan, Nagaad, 2008).