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Somali women fear they will be left out of negotiations

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Lucy Miller
WVoN Co-Editor

Representatives from more than 40 governments are meeting in London today to discuss the future of Somalia and its transition to a new caretaker government.

Somali women in the UK are calling on UK prime minister, David Cameron, to ensure that they aren’t left out of negotiations.

Leaked conference documents did not mention women’s rights or their place in the future politics of the conflicted country.

The concern that women will also be ignored at today’s conference come despite efforts by the United Nations in the past to recognise women’s essential role in conflict resolution.

Formal negotiations on the transition process have so far been dominated by foreign governments and Somali elites, who are overwhelmingly male.

British Somali women are concerned that unless they are given the chance to voice their opinions, their rights could be ignored.

Sheffield born activist Amina Souleiman has spoken to a number of Somali women about their concerns. She says: “Somalia has been a failed state for 20 years, and all along, men were in charge.

“David Cameron must call on the international community to support the participation of Somali women in the political process, to protect women’s rights and to find a lasting peace in Somalia.”

Asha Ahgi Elmi, of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, points out the essential roles that Somali women have taken on in recent years.

She says: “If women are not part of the process they cannot be part of the outcome.

“For the past 20 years, Somalia has been a living example of humanity neglected. Piracy, terrorism, humanitarian catastrophe and a lack of effective leadership are all by-products of prolonged negligence.

“During all those years of conflict in Somalia, women have had to take up non-traditional roles as breadwinners and entrepreneurs, and it is the courage of women that keeps Somali society in existence.

“The London Conference must recognise the important role of women in building peace and stability in Somalia.”

Chitra Nagarajan, Director of Gender Action for Peace and Security UK, added: “The UK government is failing to join the dots here.

“If the conference communique doesn’t include support for women’s participation and put in place ways to protect and promote their rights, it will be a huge missed opportunity to help build a real peace for Somalia, one that has true meaning for both women and men.”

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