8 March is the International Women Day but for Somali women it is a day of speaking about attrocities and pain and look forward to ways and means to liberate the country.
Before proceeding with this article, which I entirely dedicate to the Somali women on the occasion of the International Women’s Day, I wish to highlight the role of women in social life in the context of Somali cultural and traditional values, including women rights. Then I would like to look briefly into the horrendous situation to which women are exposed as far as the war is concerned. Finally I will draw up some recommendations that can be of some help to re-liberate Somalia with the power of women.
To a Somali, marriage is the entry point to his community. Before shaking hands with the sheikh to officially recognize him as a husband, a young Somali would remain an infamous chap to his community and holds the end of the long communal stick. The smallest unit of a Somali rural or urban community is the family (household) and since this young man is still a bachelor he stays at the margins as he has little to share with the rest of the community. A young man once told me how he had been feeling and how his life has changed when he got married in terms of community membership, respect and recognition. He started by saying “ I lived in the depths of a loneliness pit as I was tired of life and felt dry inside with no protection from the gusty winds of despondency”
Then what happened, I asked and he continued “my life needed a drastic change to save it from hitting the peaks of misery. At last The Almighty guided me to Suáad and I married her. She showed me the way as the gates of hope flung open for both of us” My spirits started to soar like a star. Having been a forlorn who just loitered around aimlessly, I have now become a respected member of my community flanked by neighbours and friends when going out to the town, not anymore a bachelor deggan qol yaraha irid bannaanka, but a man, a reer and a household. His partnership with Suaad as a wife has connected him to the rest of the community as he was now included in the akhyaarta tolka.
Before Suaad came into his life Ali was just a small stick. One needed little strength to break him. “But when I paired up with Suaad” he recalls “we became two sticks, now with several children around we became a bundle of sticks” smiled Ali as he concluded “we are inseparable. We are unbreakable, no woman, no life”.
If women are so important in our life why then we deny them their rights to take part in the social and political activities of the country much the same as men do? Whenever the issue of women rights comes to the agenda why we try to make unnecessary scapegoats to shift the blame to the side of culture and religion? At birth why are girls not given the same welcome as boys? Is there anywhere in the Koran where Allah has said that boys are better than girls? In our culture why gender counts so much in such a way that some fathers fire bulletes upwards to shoot the sky in utter jubiliation while in some houses gloom descends like grain of dust in the event of giving birth to a baby girl. Why does a father look down in somewhat a disappointing mood when his wife gives him three or four girls in a row? Don´t we know that the type of the child we receive depends which type of chromosome a man gives to the woman? Women always have X and they are at the receiving end. Men have X and Y and they are the donors. If you give X she will give you a girl and if you give her Y obviously you will get a boy. So why blame a woman for something you are responsible of and after all what is wrong with having a girl?
The plight of the girl-child is not over at birth. At a tender age of five she is circumcised as here genitals are cut with a knife and stitched in a most sever form known as infibulation. What has the girl done wrong? And at puperty she is often married off to a man ten times of her age who treats her as something no different than a commodity he had bought from the market. These days such things hardly happen in the somali urban areas but in the rural and nomadic settlements there are still some cases which constitute severe violation of women rights. The old man would even beat her if he feels so. Do we know the origins of this barbarism? This is not Islam or religion but something created by men to dominate women. I have interviewed some of the most famous religious leaders of our time in Somalia like Sheikh Mohamed Moallim (May his soul rest in peace) and Sheikh Mohamoud Abdulle Aw- Arif. They have both agreed that Islam despises such acts as genital mutilation and wife-beating. One of them Aw- Cariff has gone too far to the extent that he ruled blood compensation against fathers who subject female genital mutilation to their daughters. “In the Islamic Sharia” he said “A girl can seek compensation from her father who have cut her genitals ruthlessly”. Speaking before the camera, beaming Aw-cariif stressed that “Cutting a girl in such an inhumane way would amount to taking the life of the girl which is illegal in the Islamic religion” However he looked the matter from various angles and explained how different schools of Islamic thought are all against mutilation and infibulation of girls.
Let me come to the third point of my article concerning how the situation of women look like today in Somalia. I think this question needs no answer as everybody knows the true picture of women in Somalia particularly in the war zones.
Though all women are at risk under such circumstances of war and displacement, I wish to highlight the situation of pregnant women with particular attentiona and interest as they are dangerously vunerable . They are the most risky group of all risky groups among the women groups. Taking into account the millions of pregnant women in Somalia who are either displaced or cut off in an abandoned cities and towns we see that they constitute the most vulnerable groups in the entire women poulation in the country. Imagine the stress a pregnant woman can go through when her time draws closer and she has no where to go to deliver the baby or even to seek help before delivery such as medical check up or a tentus shot usually administered to pregnant women.
Can the Somali doctors wherever they are and whoever they belong to, get together in a facebook and try to arrange something for those poor mothers who are swallowed in the depths of their fears as fate is pushing them to the edge of an impounding disaster. Do they have that courage, concern and solidarity or they leave their mothers, sisters, wives and daughters in the mercy of AU and Al-Shabaab Rockets.
How helpless we are today! No somali can help one pregnant woman in her locality, no m atter where in Somalia she lives. Those who can help have no access to her and those who have access to her have no resource. And the worst thing is that the two cannot meet to coordinate efforts to save that pregnant woman because they are divided by tribe. That space is left open to be filled by a foreigner who can maneuver the way he wants and that foreigner could be a UN, NGO or donor organization watching from the ivory towers of Nairobi, Geneva and New York Or that foreigner could a fighter with links to Al-Qaeda funding the war machine of the Islamic insurgents. We somalis are just onlookers who lack space within a space of their own as the country´s political and humanitarian affairs are run by these two groups who ride the TFG and Alshabaab wagons. This is the fruits of TRIBE.
We are at the end of the Tribal road and as we can see there is no way through. Then why can´t we come back before it is too late? Can we forget the past for the sake of saving our women. Can their pain unite us? If yes, please be assured that we can find a solution for TFG and its armed opposition. They are all politicised tribe and tribalized religion. We can easlily tear them down like the house of a spider because we are united under the cause of saving Somalia by saving its women and children. We shall succeed because we are moved by the horror of a Somali pregnant woman bleeding to death under a tree from lack of services.
We will win because we will have all the support and back up of the Somali women. Women are strength to build. They are a force to produce. No once can ignore their role. Why can’t they lead us in our struggle to re-liberate Somalia? Historically they have been the core of such movements and struggles because they belong to no clan. They are just Somali women. They are pure, not impure as we men are.