Somalia: Somali Academic Urges Men to Support Women in Leadership

Professor Abdi Shakur is one of 13 Goodwill Ambassadors advocating for the reservation of 30 per cent of all seats in both houses of Somalia’s next parliament for women.

Professor Abdi Shakur is a lecturer at a local university in Mogadishu, but this is not his only identity. Due to his firm belief in women’s emancipation and progress, he has been recently appointed as one of the thirteen Goodwill Ambassadors championing the cause for women’s representation in the upcoming electoral process and the country’s next federal parliament.

His dream is to see more women take up higher positions in all branches of the government, not just in the legislative assembly.

“For society to be stable, we need to respect the women. We need social integration, and that cannot be achieved through political isolation of women,” Professor Shakur stated.

His appointment to the Committee of Goodwill Ambassadors for women did not come as a surprise to Somalis.   Shakur’s support for women’s empowerment started long before the decision of the    National Leadership Forum to reserve 30 per cent of the seats in the country’s next federal parliament for women. For the last 10 years, he has been advocating for women’s issues in different fora. He has especially used the media to highlight the plight of women and trigger a dialogue on the challenges women face in Somalia.

The impact of the campaign cannot be denied, says   Professor Shakur. He is satisfied with the progress achieved so far in advocacy campaigns for the women’s 30 per cent representation in the lower and upper houses of parliament, and he has welcomed the appointment of the Committee of Goodwill Ambassador by the Federal President. He noted that the overwhelming support he has received for his participation in such campaigns denotes a society that is adjusting to change and willing to abandon some traditional cultural norms.

“This is a good sign for Somalia and portends better days ahead when it comes to accepting women as change agents, decision makers and generally people of influence in society,” he noted.

He urges Somalia’s political elite to commit to women’s empowerment for the sake of peace, political stability and prosperity. “I thank leaders like Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan of the South West Administration and also [leaders] from the federal Parliament, where women have been given a chance. I advise politicians, elders and all people of influence to give women a chance and help and encourage them to join Parliament, instead of fighting them,” he adds.

An adviser to the federal Ministry of Education, Professor Shakur also supports girls’ empowerment through education. “It is only through education that our young girls can ward off poverty and lead better lives,” emphasizes the educator, noting that women have played a critical role in Somalia’s reconciliation and stabilization efforts.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia and the UN in general fully support the work of the Goodwill Ambassadors advocating for the 30 per cent reserved seats in the upcoming electoral process and strongly believe that women should participate widely in political life.