The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Somalia strives to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment in an effective and coherent manner across all programmes. The Country Programme Document for 2011–2015 provides a framework within which to implement the mandates of gender mainstreaming in the country programme overall and responds directly to the acute challenges faced by Somali women today. UNDP is tackling some of the most recurrent aspects of discrimination through strategic focus on the most vulnerable men,women, girls and boys, with the ultimate goal of contributing to the achievement of human development and gender equality. This Gender brief is designed to provide an overall picture on the situation of women in Somalia today and is meant to be used by UNDP staff,consultants and any other stakeholders looking for information on issues related to gender equality and women’s empowerment in Somalia.
This National Gender Policy is developed at a time when Somalia is emerging from over two decades of destructive civil war that has destroyed social, political and economic structures of the country. The conflict has impacted both men and women differently. for instance, both women and men have lost state protection, lost loved ones, lost livelihoods and access to social services. It is worth noting that the conflict has emasculated Somali men and can no longer discharge their responsibilities as expected by their society.
However, Somali women were disproportionately affected by the conflict. They have borne the brunt of the conflict. Unlike men, women have encountered gender-based violence. Despite the negative impacts of the conflict, Somali women became the primary income providers for their families and resumed new roles and responsibilities to maintain the basic survival of their families. Yet, women are marginalized from the decision-making processes.
This report seeks to emphasize the status of Somali women throughout the various transformations of Somali society and culture. Through examining those factors that affect Somali statehood and state building, such as culture and tradition, as well as the impact of historical events from colonial to military rule and ongoing civil war, it is evident that Somali women have not been passive observers to these processes but are, in many cases, active participants and pioneers of change and revolution.
Within this context, the report documents, through numerous interviews with Somali women, the ways in which the civil war and subsequent peace processes have created opportunities for increased participation of Somali women in public spaces. Crucially, the report also assesses the significant challenges that peace processes have posed, and continue to pose, for Somali women, including a lack of visibility in official peace and governance processes, the threat of sexual violence, and limited educational and economic opportunities.
The cultural context and experiences of women in Somali land provide insight into both specific and universal challenges to the fulfillment of the human rights of all Somali women. For instance, the collapse of the central government eliminated legal protection of the human rights of women. In the same way, the prolonged war adversely affected their socioeconomic situation. As part of their survival strategies, women assumed heavier economic responsibilities for themselves, their children, their parents and in many instances for their spouses. This enhanced the responsibilities of women within families but did not necessarily translate into overall improvement in the realization of their rights.
After decades of conflict between the northern and southern regions of Sudan – which engulfed the country in two phases of civil war from 1955 to 1972 and 1982 to 2005 and resulted in the loss of 2.5 million lives1 – a Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in 2005 between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). One of the key clauses of the Peace Agreement was the recognition of South Sudan’s right to hold a referendum on whether to remain part of Sudan or secede to form a new nation. A referendum was held in January 2011 and resulted in a 98.8% approval of the option to secede . The Republic of South Sudan (population 8.26 million3 ) was established on July 9th 2011.
Several leading development agencies had posited education and equity as key themes at the onset of the 21st century. The United Nation’s Millennium Development Goal (MDG) No.2 “Achieve Universal Primary Education” and MDG No.3 “Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women” are devoted to educational attainment and equity on a global level. UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics (Sherman & Poirier 2007) recently published a book that compares education equity among 16 of the world’s largest countries. Although the focus of this UNESCO volume was limited—using access to formal schooling and allocated resources to education as operational definitions of equity in the case countries—the selection of this topic by UNESCO emphasizes the urgency of education inequality analysis by and for educators, researchers, and policy makers. The World Bank’s World Development Report (WDR) features a global development issue thought to be especially timely. The WDRs are generously funded and typically of high professional rigor. The discipline of economics is always well reported as expected. The WDR for 2006, in a line of such reports dating back to 1978, is titled Equity and Development. Equity or equality and its ubiquitously maligned antonym, inequality, is a theme that appears with uniform regularity in the publications of major development agencies as well as finding a home in the development prospectus of the smallest nongovernmental organizations. Linking equity to development in the title of the WDR 2006 will provide grist for the mill of only the most hardened of World Bank critics. Like us, many development professionals recognize the World Bank, with its enormous reach and prestige, for placing equity front and center on the development stage.
Sudan is in a critical political, socio-economic and demographic transition, particularly in the post-cessation era, together with emerging national opportunities and challenges vis-à-vis the changing governance in the Arab region and the internationally down-turning economies. The newly two established post-cessation countries (Sudan and Southern Sudan) have serious disputes and a long trail to reach a peaceful coexistence. Although the Government has recently signed Peace Agreement in Doha with some of the Darfuri rebel movements, brutal fighting is perpetual in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and some pockets in Darfur.
Since long enhancing women empowerment is expressed in the international literature to overcome gender gap or gender-based inequality which is a wide spread phenomenon that influences the majority of the world’s cultures, religions, nations and income groups. Yet gender discrepancies and their evolution over time manifested themselves in different ways. Hence, assessment of gender gap and development of framework for capturing the magnitude of these disparities are most important so as to design effective measures for reducing them. The rationale for the recent growing interest and increasing concern in the international literature on reducing the gender gap and achieving gender equality is probably related to and consistent with the increasing commitment of the international community towards fulfilling the UN-UNDP-HDR- Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) including the achievement of gender equality between women and men and empowerment of women.
The newly-independent country of South Sudan is anchored to the bottom of the world league table for education. More than half of its primary school age children – over 1 million in total – are out of school. Young girls are more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than to graduate from primary school. South Sudan’s young people face restricted opportunities for the education they need to build a better future for themselves and their country. It is time for the world to come together and change this picture.
UNHCR’s leading role with refugees in countries of asylum is not in doubt. However, when refugees return to their countries of origin – which are often trying to recover from the devastation of war – donors do not agree on the extent of UNHCR’s involvement in reintegration activities. Some donors say that UNHCR is not a development agency and reintegration is not its job while others say that UNHCR should be helping devastated countries to absorb returning refugees by building schools and health centres. After decades of discussion about closing the gap between relief and development the international community needs to settle this problem once and for all. Development agencies have a different sense of urgency, timing and culture and they do not come onto the scene soon enough. UNHCR has a crucial reintegration role to play during transitional recovery periods.