Abandon the clan-driven political system and invest in jobs – these were two of many topics raised when Somali women from civil society, parliament and the police service gathered in Mogadishu to discuss women’s role in conflict resolution. Somalia’s new Prime Minister also visited the meeting and highlighted the important role women have played, and are playing, in building a peaceful society.

In late May, the Swedish Embassy – in cooperation with the Folke Bernadotte Academy (FBA), the Ministry for Foreign Affairs Conflict and Humanitarian Policy Department and the Life and Peace Institute – organised a full-day meeting in Mogadishu for Somali women to discuss women’s role and participation in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding.

The meeting, which brought together some 20 women, mainly from Somali civil society organisations but also from parliament and the police service, was led by Marika Fahlén of the Swedish network of women mediators and Eldridge Adolfo, FBA dialogue and mediation adviser.

Participants were surprised during the day by a spontaneous visit from the new Prime Minister, Hassan Ali Khaire, who highlighted the important role women have played, and are playing, in building a peaceful society.

Historically, women have played an important informal role in conflict resolution between and within Somali clans. The day’s discussions focused on the importance and necessity of highlighting this and including women at a more formal level as well to build sustainable peace. The women shared their experiences of mediation in various local conflicts as well as the difficulties and resistance women face every day.

The importance of a transition from a clan-driven political system to a ‘one person, one vote’ system – essential for strengthening women’s equal rights and opportunities – was addressed during the discussions. The outcome of the latest electoral process, which resulted in a greater share of women in parliament and ministerial posts in the government, has instilled new hope and was seen as an important step forward in women’s participation and role in the development of society. But major challenges still remain, and discussions highlighted the importance of women’s opportunities to influence ongoing reform processes, such as the ongoing review of the new constitution and security sector reform.

Participants also highlighted the need to engage the rapidly growing number of young people in Somalia, underlining that investment in job creation is an investment in peace.

There was considerable consensus among participants on the need to work together to increase women’s representation, active participation and opportunities to influence the peace and security agenda in Somalia. Participants also requested support to develop and deepen their dialogue and mediation skills. Together with the FBA and the MFA, the Embassy is currently discussing the possibility of a follow-up meeting with the participants from Mogadishu and women from other regions of Somalia to produce a training package tailored to their specific needs.

The discussion meeting was part of the Embassy’s work to implement the Swedish action plan for women, peace and security, in which Somalia is one of the focus countries and part of an initiative on dialogue and peace processes.

 

Text and photo: Swedish Embassy in Mogadishu