Somalia: from Italian colony to collapsed anarchy, the Texas-sized mostly muslim country has become accustomed to civil dissidence and war.
Since 2012, Somalia has been inching closer and closer to stability, however, it took about twelve years to restore central authority to the East African nation. The country is often referred to as the world’s original failed state, being that its people were lawless and engulfed in conflict for about twenty years.
In a nation where about sixty percent of its people are nomadic, Somalia is one of the poorest countries in the world. It’s economy is mainly agricultural and exports mostly bananas and livestock to none other than Saudi Arabia. However, there has been little exploitation of natural gas, oil or uranium since the early 1990’s when Somalia’s economy really took a downturn. But the downward spiraling economy with several food shortages in the past few decades has also affected Somalia’s women.
Somalia has been consistently ranked as one of the worst countries in the world to be a woman. Even Somalia’s women minister is “shocked” that her country is only ranked as the fifth worst place in the world for females. In her Opinion piece to the garden, Maryan Qasim even called Somalia a “living hell for women”. She followed up by explaining how heavily war, drought, famine, and devastation have really affected women’s ability to feed their children and sustain life.
She also explained how war isn’t a women’s greatest risk, it’s pregnancy. About one in every fourteen women lose their life due to maternal causes, the second highest in the world next to Afghanistan. This unfortunate related is precipitated by nonexistent prenatal care, medical supplies as well as poor healthcare professionals and Female Genital Mutilation, also known as FGM. This operation destructive involves removing a women’s genital partially or entirely in hopes of inhibiting her sexual feelings. Even worse, about 95% of all women age 4 to 11 are victims of FGM.
Many Somali people are avidly working to educate the public about the effects of FGM, specifically the associated health risks and difficulties it catalyzes during labor. By having more people know about its associated effects, mothers and husbands alike will refused the process on their daughters, and that’s a step in the right direction. Also, only about 1% of Somalian women use contraceptives.
Those aren’t the only problems women are facing in Somalia. About 45% of women are married before age 18. The adult literacy rate for women is 26% compared to 36%, which just proves there is an overall issue in Somalia, not just affecting women, but men as well.
About 237 cases of rape were registered in Somalia’s capital of Mogadishu alone. The percentage of primary school participation for girls from 2007 to 2010 in Somalia were about 23 percent for women and 42 percent for men. Also, only 37% of those girls who attended primary school actually took the Form Four exam during 2011 or 2012. However, while this number has been growing, females still make up only 28 percent of all students at that level.
Because of the ongoing conflict in Somalia, women have become the primary pay check for a majority of families throughout Somalia. Women typically can find employment as street vendors, own small shops, but are not taught the skills to run a proper business on their own.
Due to the lack of education of women, and the high drop out rates, have caused high exam fail rates as well as a teaching force of only 15% women, with a majority of that percentage being unqualified for the position.
Several efforts are going on around the world to provide relief to women in Somalia. One organization called Save Somali Women and Children have spent the past twenty years in Somalia’s capital city creating a safe and sustainable situation for women by supporting efforts to overcome “marginalization, violence, and poverty” in their local communities. Because of the wide range of issues Somali women are facing, the organization is encouraging Somali women to utilize their own efforts in conjunction with local, national and international allies to transform their own lives as well as their communities.
SSWC is working to achieve their goals by educating about FGM and provide violence recovery programs to many women within Somalia’s capital. Through media access and global awareness, SSWC hopes to expand their outreach to help more Somali women, even those outside its capital city.
Although there are many issues going on in Somalia, (poverty lack of food, and education for all people), affecting both its men and its women, there are clearly some ongoing problems that are inhibiting women from providing for their families as much as they could. This all starts with safety, and education. By educating Somali women and working to make a safer Somalia, the country itself will not only be a better place for women, but a better place for all.