Six Ways USAID’s BUILD has supported women’s advancement and political participation in Somalia
Somalia continues to struggle to establish a stable democracy that serves its citizens. In an uphill battle to put democratic institutions in place, Somali women have been largely left behind as their roles in politics and governance continue to be extremely limited, perpetuating gender inequalities across society. But despite these obstacles, recent advances suggest a move towards a more inclusive society.
Inclusivity and women’s political participation are at the forefront of the USAID-funded Bringing Unity, Integrity and Legitimacy to Democracy (BUILD) project. Implemented by Creative Associates International with its partners, including the Rift Valley Institute, Consilient and the International Republican Institute, BUILD provides critical assistance to help build electoral systems, strengthen civil society and encourage civic and political participation in Somalia, with a particular focus on women, youth and other marginalized groups.
Here are six ways that BUILD has worked to elevate women’s participation in civic society:
BUILD has raised awareness around bills that address sexual violence in both Somalia and Somaliland
In Somalia, there are currently no legal repercussions for sexual assault crimes of any kind, and cases of abuse have been on the rise in the last few years. For the most part, crimes of this kind occur with impunity.
In 2018, BUILD supported the passing of the Sexual Offence Bill in Somaliland, a historic law for the country. Since 2019, BUILD has worked with several national partners to support them in advocating for women’s rights, including sexual offences legislation, in Somalia. This November, BUILD facilitated a public dialogue to raise awareness about the controversial Sexual Offenses Bill. Yet to be passed, this bill is currently in danger of being undermined by another, less substantial bill that takes the teeth out of legal consequences for sexual violence.
The dialogue brought together human rights experts, lawyers, doctors and elected officials to discuss and debunk misconceptions around the bill. BUILD has joined the international community in condemning the less substantive sexual assault bill and joined the social media campaign #KilltheBill to bring it to the forefront of Somalia’s civic discussions.
BUILD has worked to institute quotas for women’s participation in political parties
Through BUILD’s efforts, 11 political parties joined the movement to increase the number of election candidates and political party members who are women. The women’s wings from these political parties also signed the Women’s Quota Declaration and participated in an advocacy initiative to increase representation of women in candidate lists and future parliament seats, to encourage political participation of women and to increase the number of women in political parties.
To further support this movement, BUILD led a discussion on Women’s Representation in Electoral Processes and live streamed it through Puntland TV and its Facebook page. The panelists concluded that instituting a 30 percent representation quota is the first step towards achieving parity and increasing women’s political participation in Somalia.
BUILD also supported the Forum of Somali Women earlier in 2020. The Forum is a coordinating body of political party women’s wings that advocates for the representation of women in the future parliament through substantial changes to the National Election Law.
BUILD has worked with women in internally displaced persons camps to help address their needs
In several community outreach events organized in partnership with Somali CSOs New Ways Organization and HINNA, BUILD met with women in the Korsan and Rajo IDP camps outside Mogadishu. Through these events the team worked to enhance meaningful links between IDPs and camp management, with the goal to address challenges particular to vulnerable groups in the camps and devise solutions.
BUILD facilitates mentoring and trainings designed for women
BUILD facilitated several workshops and outreach events for young women interested in politics. These events provided one-on-one mentoring sessions and networking opportunities.
In 2019, BUILD organized a Political Party Fair for aspiring young women and representatives with its grantee HINNA, supporting 100 women to become more politically engaged by joining various political parties. Other events included women’s advocacy workshops, a communication and media relations workshop for a political party’s communications team, and mentoring meetings between young women and female members of parliament.
Nine women and youth who took part in the program’s activities attained a formal role or position within their political parties.
Social media trainings boost women’s digital awareness and online security
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the digital gender divide. In a recent report, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development writes that:
“The switch to online campaigning and voter engagement creates new challenges for female voters and candidates. Globally, women on average have less access to and familiarity with online platforms and social media tools.”
This reality is in part why BUILD not only shares its political dialogues via social media, but through the radio, which more women and IDPs have access to.
Tackling a key area of online influence and access to information, BUILD led a Social Media Safety and Security Training for representatives from CSOs and media organizations. The 24 participants were women representing 15 different CSOs, including several of BUILD’s grantees. These women were trained not only in how to leverage social media platforms as effective tools for outreach and community mobilization, but they also learned how to recognize and respond to disinformation and other security threats common for Somali women seeking to promote women’s rights and voices.
BUILD strengthens skills of female journalists
In a country notorious for its lack of protections for journalists and free speech, BUILD conducted several workshops for CSOs and reporters, nearly half of whom were women. One of the two-day workshops was designed to build their capacity in using social media as a tool for civic engagement and enhanced communication with citizens and government institutions. The training also allowed participants to build their skills to use social media to support advocacy campaign initiatives on issues and priority new laws.
Another training worked with 25 journalists, covering the ethics of journalism and independent news coverage.