Garowe, PUNTLAND – In a move that underscores the ongoing challenges of women representation in Somali politics, the Speaker of the Puntland House of Representatives, Hon Abdirisak Ahmed Said, announced the formation and leadership of ten parliamentary committees. Despite the broad spectrum of areas covered, from legal affairs to economic development, a glaring oversight has become the focal point of discussion: the lack of female representation in leadership positions within these committees, particularly in the Committee on Human Rights, Women, and Family Affairs. This development not only highlights the systemic barriers to female participation in Puntland’s political landscape but also raises questions about the commitment to gender equality in governance.
The restructuring, as outlined by the Speaker, encompasses a diverse range of focus areas, including security, finance, and social affairs. A total of 63 members were appointed to these committees, reflecting a broad representation of Puntland’s parliamentary members. However, the composition reveals a significant gender disparity, especially in leadership roles. Notably, the Committee on Human Rights, Women, and Family Affairs, a committee that one would expect to champion gender inclusivity, will be chaired by a male member, Hon Mowliid Abokor Aafi, with the parliament’s sole female MP, Hon Muno Ahmed Abdalle, serving only as the deputy chairperson.
The Impact of Limited Female Leadership
The absence of female chairpersons, especially in a committee so pivotal to women’s rights, underscores a broader issue of gender inequality in Somali political representation. This lack of female leadership not only perpetuates traditional gender roles but also limits the scope of discourse and policymaking to reflect a male-dominated perspective, potentially overlooking critical issues affecting women and families in Puntland.
Moreover, the symbolic representation of women in politics, without substantive leadership roles, fails to challenge the structural barriers that prevent women from participating fully in political and public life. It also sends a discouraging message to future generations about the value placed on women’s voices in shaping the policies that affect their lives.
The current state of affairs calls for an urgent reformative approach to ensure gender diversity and inclusivity in Puntland’s political institutions. Promoting female leadership within parliamentary committees, particularly those dealing with human rights and family affairs, is critical. Such steps are not merely symbolic but are fundamental to ensuring that the legislative process is inclusive and reflective of the diverse needs of the population it serves.
To achieve this, there must be a concerted effort from all sectors of society, including political leaders, civil society organizations, and international partners, to address the systemic barriers to women’s political participation. Initiatives could include targeted training and mentorship programs for female politicians, reforms to political party structures to ensure gender quotas, and public awareness campaigns to shift societal perceptions about women’s roles in governance.
The under-representation of women in leadership positions within Puntland’s parliamentary committees highlights a critical area for improvement in Somali governance. Addressing this gap is not merely a matter of fulfilling gender quotas but is essential for the creation of more equitable and representative policies that can address the unique challenges faced by women and families in Puntland.
As Puntland strives towards a more inclusive future, deliberate policies and cultural shifts must strengthen the role of women in politics, recognizing their indispensable contributions to governance and society at large. Only then can Puntland truly reflect the aspirations and values of its entire population, paving the way for a more just and equitable society.