INTERVIEW: Puntland’s state only female MP on her election and challenges of women’s representation

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(ERGO) – Despite efforts to secure a quota for women in parliament, political representation in the regional state of Puntland has remained overwhelmingly male-driven.

Since the inception of Puntland State Assembly in 1998, the number of female lawmakers has remained significantly lower than that of their male counterparts.

Only one woman, Nim’a Abdi Karshe, was recently nominated by the state elders to the Puntland Conflict Resolution Committee, making her the only female MP in the state assembly. The Committee vets and approves individuals seconded by the elders to serve as state MPs.

Radio Ergo’s producer, Leyla Mohamed, spoke to Nim’a Abdi Karshe about her nomination and the challenges she faces.

Nim’a: When I decided to become a member of the parliament, I faced many challenges even though I had the support of elders. Women are selected by the elders to serve as MPs. During the formation of Puntland state (in 1998), the female MPs were three, later the number dropped to two, and today I am the only female MP. The challenges I faced are those faced by many other women.

Leyla: How do you feel being the only female MP in a house dominated by 65 male lawmakers?

Nim’a: I would have been happy if there were five or six female MPs in the assembly so that we could form a team that can champion for particular causes or takes a position on matters arising in the assembly.

Leyla: How did you qualify to be nominated?

Nim’a: I was supported by my clan elders and other female candidates were dropped by their clan elders.

Leyla: Now what are your plans for pushing for more female MPs in the House in the future?

Nim’a: I plan to create more awareness so that the next parliament can have more women. I want to discuss with the traditional elders who select candidates to fight for the rights of women.

Leyla: Do you have any idea on how you can achieve this?

Nim’a: Yes. These traditional elders should be enlightened to treat the boy and the girl the same way. They like the boy very much, but they should be sensitized to give the girl priority and opportunity to progress. We could, for instance, have a rotational approach in which case men rule for one term and the next women take over.

Leyla: During the campaign, women’s organizations in and outside Puntland state had been conducting sensitization campaigns that seemed not to have yielded any fruits. What is the benefit of conducting another sensitization campaign to support women?

Nim’a: Yes, that is true, even the president pledged to give women a quota, but he did not put more effort into it but now we are collaborating with this new Puntland President to implement the 30 per cent women’s quota and we urge him to follow up.

Leyla: As women, do you know why the elders do not consider women fit for leadership?

Nim’a: Yes, Somali society is patriarchal; even when a boy is born, they are happier than having a girl!

Leyla: Now Puntland State has been in existence for 21 years and all those years women have had less chance to lead. Do you think that it is time for the parliament to pass legislation to protect women’s rights?

Nim’a: Yes – and we are thinking about such a plan because the number of women in the parliament has dropped. So that issue is on the list.

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