EU joins Somalia in commemorating International Women's Day.

By European Union
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Dozens of Somali leaders including first lady Zahra Omar Hassan, Minister ofWomen and Human Rights Development Sahra Samatar, Minister of Health Hawa Mohamud andDeputy Speaker of Parliament Mahad Abdallah Awad joined the EU Ambassador to Somalia, MicheleCervone d'Urso, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (SRCC)to Somalia Francisco Caetano Jose Madeira and the Acting UN Resident Coordinator for Somalia,George Conway, in celebrations to mark International Women's Day in Mogadishu with a strongstatement for women empowerment and emancipation in Somalia.Somali civil society actors, the EU, UN and AU representatives, Somalia Federal and Regionalgovernment officials, members of the Somalia Federal parliament and other influential publicfiguresincluding women leaders, took part in a well-attended panel discussion to review and explore the statusof Somali women in politics and their role in state building, peace building and reconciliation, with aspecific focus on women representation in 2016 Electoral process as well as the 30 percent womenquota in power sharing.In his opening remarks, EU Ambassador to Somalia, Michele Cervone, urged the panelists andparticipants to recognize the selfless struggle Somali women go through and their achievement againstgreat odds. He invited to critically examine the huge challenges they still face and chart a way forwardfor Somali women to fully participate in Somalia's future. The Ambassador reminded the participantsthat gender equality is at the core of European values enshrined within the European Union legal andpolitical framework.

"I applaud every one of you here today for your work for women's empowerment and gender equality inSomalia, because gender equality is not only a question of social justice but it goes hand in hand withpeace and development. We need to urge all stakeholders both at Federal and Regional levels to promotemeaningful inclusion of women in their governments and organizations if indeed they are to achieveequity and prosperity because women are the backbone of society," Ambassador Michele Cervone said.

The panel discussed challenges women face in realising their potential in Somalia and heard frominspiring leaders and gender champions on the best way to overcome them. It pointed at the need toincrease women participation in politics in the upcoming electoral process so to be able to shape uppolicies and enforce existing laws.In a joint communique issued at the end of the panel discussions, Somalia women leaders acknowledgedthe steps taken by the Government to improve the status of women. However, they called upon thegovernment to do more by increasing women's participation in politics and in top decision makingpositions in order for women needs and issues to be properly addressed. They called on the FederalGovernment to come up with a fair formula that spells out women's equitable representation in the 2016election process and that an agreed quota system be prescribed by law before July 2016. They alsourged all actors involved to fully consult with women on possible electoral models currently underrevision and to ensure that women be consistently present at the table throughout the course of theConstitutional review process.