The withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Somalia last January and the return of the president, prime minister and parliamentarians to Mogadishu at the end of February created an opportunity for Somali women seeking to play a greater role in the new unity government. To aid in this effort, NDI organized a two-day study tour to Uganda and a four-day workshop in Mogadishu to help women members of parliament (MPs) and civil society representatives plan legislative and advocacy initiatives. The programs resulted in the creation of the Somali Women Parliamentarians’ Association (SOWPA).
The Uganda study mission focused on the role women played in drafting the Ugandan constitution and on the operation of the Uganda Women’s Parliamentary Association (UWOPA), including how it prioritizes issues, builds consensus and crafts legislative strategy. UWOPA members explained the importance of women’s caucuses and how they complement parliamentary women’s/gender committees. The information was particularly useful for the Somali women, who have a faced backlash from some members of the Somali Transitional Federal Parliament who argued that a women’s caucus is unnecessary because a parliamentary gender committee already exists.
The study mission also stressed the value of coordination among women in parliament and civil society with the Ugandan women MPs and NGO leaders sharing examples of successful collaboration. The Somali NGO leaders also met with representatives of Ugandan NGOs, who shared strategies for interacting with lawmakers and influencing public policy.
At the four-day workshop, the Somali women worked on a legislative advocacy agenda, which led to the decision to form the Somali women’s caucus. Participants drew on NDI’s experiences from other regions to explore different women’s caucus models,, identify priority issues and develop the guiding values, vision, mission and internal policies to govern the caucus. NDI continues to support the women MPs as they formalize the caucus and take steps to increase cooperation with civil society.
Published May 22, 2009