Somalia is a country located on the horn of Africa, with a population of almost 14 million people. Although women and girls in Somalia consist of 50% of the country’s population, women and men are far from equal. Globally, Somalia places fourth highest on the gender inequality index. In Somalia, gender inequality is exacerbated by poverty, disability, social class and harmful practices that violate the rights of women and girls. Today, women in Somalia are susceptible to gender-based violence and sexual violence, an issue that is heightened in areas of conflict.

Genital Mutilation in Somalia

Common problems that perpetuate gender inequality in Somalia include female genital mutilation, child marriage, maternal mortality rates and a lack of access to fundamental tools for success, such as education, healthcare, credit and more. Women in Somalia, especially adolescent girls are susceptible to undergo genital mutilation. Often, these girls undergo this before they turn 13 years old, according to a 2013 report by the World Health Organization. Somalia has the highest rate of genital mutilation, with 98% of girls subjected to it. With the upsurge in coronavirus cases, girls in Somalia are forced to stay home. This leads to higher rates of genital mutilation. According to the United Nations Population Fund, the coronavirus could contribute to two million more instances of genital mutilation over the next decade that could have been stopped. Although genital mutilation remains legal in Somalia, the practice has no health benefits and harms women in girls in a plethora of ways, as it poses health risks and robs women of the full capacity of their reproductive organs.

Maternal Mortality in Somalia

Another issue plaguing Somalia that perpetuates gender inequality is the maternal mortality rate, which is the highest of any country in the world. For children in Somalia, four in 100 infants die within the first month of their lives. Women in Somalia suffer from these high rates of maternal mortality due to poor healthcare infrastructure within the country and a lack of access to adequate services. In the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda, the central principle is “leaving no one behind”. This commitment from the United Nations involves prioritizing the rights, access and abilities that women in Somalia have.

Lack of Education and Leadership

For women in Somalia, there is a lack of women involved in political and social leadership roles. One of the reasons behind this is a lack of education. In Somalia, primary schools have one of the lowest rates of enrollment, with only 30% of children in school. Of the children in school, less than half of them are females. For girls living in rural areas, these numbers are lower. Compared to men, women in Somalia have much lower literacy levels. In Somalia, only 26% of women can read, compared to 36% of men.

The Future for Women in Somalia

Somalia remains a state of male power but there is hope that the country will become more focused on gender equality. The Somali Provisional Constitution, created in 2012, is being revised. In 2021, the country is participating in a one-person-one-vote election. With the future revision of the Somali constitution, there is opportunity for empowering women and girls across the country by implementing gender equality provisions. It is hopeful that 2021 may promise more widespread opportunities for women and girls in the country.

– Caitlin Calfo
Photo: Flickr