For decades, the highly patriarchal Somali community has locked out many women from participating in practically all fields of life, shoving them into the dark corners of oblivion, thanks to retrogressive cultural practices.
Although this has been the norm, some women have risen up from the oppression and claimed their position in society. On such woman is Sameey Ahmed Harun from the Kassim sub-tribe in Garissa County.
Today, she is the first, and only woman sub-clan leader, acknowledged with a respectable cultural title ‘ugaasad’ which means chief.
By virtue of her new role, Ms Sameey has incidentally stamped her authority in the community by representing the needs women and girls in the community.
With support from a female consultative committee from her sub-clan, Ms Sameey has now joined the league of the Council of Elders in her Kassim sub-clan in addition to the larger Abduak clan, which has historically dominated politics in Garissa.
“With this unity we see today, we can now speak with one voice and most importantly, get the voice of women heard in development and their needs met,” says a young woman from the Kassim sub-clan.
During Ms Sameey’s inauguration into the Council of Elders, an elaborate ceremony was conducted. This included camel milk being poured on her hands as a symbol of authority passed over to her, to arbitrate.
“Ms Sameey says as a community leader now, I will exercise fairness in arbitrating cases involving men especially because some come with a bias that because I am a woman, I will be unfair to them,” she says.
As a society, the Somali women seem to be making milestones in asserting their authority in leadership positions.
This was demonstrated in the last General Election where Ijara constituency made history by electing Sophia Abdinoor as the first female Member of Parliament from the entire North Eastern region.
Similarly, as the job market both locally and internationally open up to Somali women as administrators, policymakers, legislators, doctors and nurses, the desire to empower the Somali girl-child has definitely risen relative to the past.