Somalia is not a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (“CEDAW”).
The United Nations Development Programme Gender and Citizenship Initiative has reported on the condition of women in Somalia. Women’s legal status is covered by the pre-war civil and criminal code, whose laws have not been enforced in recent years. The current transitional government is working towards developing a civil code consistent with Islamic Sharia. Although the Somali constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, Somali women often face discrimination both in the public and private spheres. Specifically, the personal status code prohibits women from inheriting more than half of their brother’s share.
Overall, the conditions of women in Somalia have been greatly affected by the country’s civil war and a prolonged absence of a central government. Women and children were often targeted in violent attacks by the clan. In addition, the lack of national infrastructure has affected women and children, leaving them to deal with problems of hunger, poverty and disease. An overall lack of public health care, education, and drinkable water has had a devastating effect on child health as well as the child mortality rate. Somalia has among the lowest literacy rates in the world, with only 26% of its female population reportedly literate in 2001. Primary school enrollment hovers around 28%, and about 48% of students are females. Despite high unemployment, women do comprise approximately 43% of the workforce.
It should be noted that women have played a primary role in the efforts to rebuild Somalia. Women occupying just 30 seats in the 550-member Transitional National Assembly represent the four major clans. These women in government have worked together successfully to represent universal female interests. In addition, two female ministers have consistently participated in the Transitional National Government, despite its having been reformed twice since 2000.
The Voice of Somali Women for Peace, Reconciliation, and Political Rights is a Somali-based NGO working to elevate the status of Somali women. Additionally, many women’s groups in Hargeisa have been working to assist women and children, though their work has been made difficult by a poor communications infrastructure. 90% of Somalia’s women’s groups form the following four networks: the Coalition of Grassroots Women’s Organization; IIDA Women’s Development Organization; We Are Women Activists (WAWA) and NAGAAD. In March 2004, these networks collaborated to launch a national campaign against female genital mutilation, a prevalent problem in Somalia.
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