Somalia plans to hold its election in 2016, an exercise that will see the horn of Africa country elect a new president and parliament.
However, unlike many African countries going through challenging times, the citizens have entrusted the mammoth task of ensuring the plebiscite is free and fair to one of its daughters, Dr Halima Ismail Ibrahim, a former lecturer at Somalia National University.
Dr Halima, also a human rights activist, is the chairperson of the National Independent Electoral Commission, which will organise the forthcoming election, one of the critical events in the country’s calendar in 2016.
The appointment of Dr Halima to head such a sensitive organisation is proof that Somali women are now entering previously perceived male precincts and are succeeding.
It is also shows that Somalia is ready to move on and put behind it years of unequal opportunities for women.
Dr Halima has already promised to serve her fellow citizens with dedication and ensure the political process momentum, critical for a country coming out of a prolonged civil war, is maintained.
As the country joins the world in celebrating the International Women’s Day, Dr Halima will be one of the personalities that Somalia and the international community will be looking up to this year, to steer Somalia towards peace and stability.
According to the Federal Government of Somalia, this year’s International Women’s Day theme; ‘A pledge for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment’ resonates well with its efforts to empower its women, who suffered the most during the times of civil war.
Ms Maryan Mohammed Hussein, one of the gender affairs coordinators says the administration is already working towards ensuring that 30 per cent of all government appointments go to women.
She adds that the agenda is expected to continue even after the election. Currently, there are three women cabinet ministers out of 25, but Ms Maryan believes it is just the beginning of better things to come for women of Somalia.
Currently, Somalia has 40 women MPs out of a total of 275, meaning that 14.5 per cent of the parliamentarians are women.
However, the number is expected to increase in the next Parliament, thanks to the recently agreed electoral model which stipulates that 30 per cent of the electoral seats both in the Lower and Upper Houses of parliament will be reserved for women.
In the Lower House, for example, 83 seats out of the 275 available will automatically go to women, while 16 of the 54 available seats in Upper House will also be reserved for women.
Ms Maryan believes the gains would not have been easy without the support of African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom).
Amisom has been in the forefront in creating a conducive environment for women to thrive.
Securing the country has brought relative peace, enabling women to realise their full potential, something that was almost impossible when militants enjoyed a free reign.
In fact Amisom is currently aiding the Federal Government of Somalia develop the Somali National Gender Policy document that will act as a blueprint for women empowerment programmes.
One of the successful programmes implemented in Somalia with the help of Amisom is the CEEBLA project, a crisis hotline set up for victims of sexual violence to report the crime and also seek immediate assistance.
Since its launch, late 2015, the project has received positive response and has aided in hastening the prosecution of individuals found guilty of rights abuses against women.
Amisom has also helped train women officers in handling such cases whenever they are reported.
Women are slowly but steadily joining decision-making positions in the country.
All told, though, Somalia still has a long way to go, towards securing equal rights for its women as required by the African Union’s African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the 1945 Charter of the United Nations.