Background

For most of the period since the fall of the Siad Barre government in 1991, Somalia has been without an effective central government and at war with itself.  In the north west, the former British protectorate of Somaliland was subjected to air raids and massacres by the Barre regime and elected to secede and form its own nation soon after the collapse.  Thereafter, Somaliland developed a functional political system and separate currency but struggles to gain recognition as an independent state.

Meanwhile, the fighting intensified in Somalia. Clan-based warlords, Islamist militants, and corrupt businesspeople have all battled for control of the country. In 2007, African Union troops entered into an alliance to help the interim government take back control from the Al-Qaeda linked militant group Al-Shabaab.  In 2011, Mogadishu, the capital city, was liberated.  Since then, the city has become increasingly secure and investment has been pouring in. Al-Shabaab’s support among the Somali public has declined severely because of its brutal method of governance.

In August 2012, Somalia’s parliamentary body voted on a landmark constitution and a new government came to power. Since then, the country’s first permanent Head of State since 1991 has been elected. This historic milestone represents an opportunity for the country to regain stability.  With a constitution that promises women 30% of parliamentary seats, and outlaws practices like Female Genital Mutilation, this is a pivotal moment for women’s rights in Somalia – an opportunity for women to participate in the revitalization of their country. Finally, Somalia has a real chance at peace, and Somali women, a chance to live, work and study more openly.