Negotiating with Men to Help Women: The Success of Somali Women Activists

Authored by: Shukria Dini

Categories: Statebuilding, Violent Conflict
Sub-Categories: Human Development, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), Sexual and Reproductive Health
Country: Somalia
Region: Sub-Saharan Africa
Year: 2007
Citation: Dini, Shukria. "Negotiating with Men to Help Women: The Success of Somali Women Activists." Critical Half 5, no. 1 (2007): 33-7.

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Executive Summary

In 1991, Somalia’s government collapsed and the nation became engulfed in a deadly civil war that continues to cause enormous suffering, destruction, and displacement today. The subsequent anarchy has made it impossible for Somalis to form lasting state institutions that provide essential services such as healthcare, employment, and education to the population. In response, some Somali women have emerged as grassroots activists seeking to provide services to those who bear the brunt of the war, particularly vulnerable women. However, these activists have encountered numerous obstacles from male leaders who are suspicious of their women-specific activities. This paper will briefly examine the status of women within Somalia and the rise in Somali women’s activism. Then, drawing upon interviews conducted by the author in Puntland and Somaliland in 2005 and 2006, it will discuss how women activists have come to understand the importance of working with male leaders to deliver services to women in need, and the methods that they have used to overcome men’s suspicions and increase their support for anti-female genital mutilation (FGM) and literacy initiatives designed to assist and empower women.