Somaliland Women's Political Forum (WPF) founder member Zam Zam Abdi Aden visited the Catholic Institute for International Relations London office last week to tell of the WPF's campaign to raise the political voice of women in Somaliland's fledgling democracy, writes Matthew Heard. The WPF was formed in 2000 to increase women's participation in the political process. It strives to stop the vote of women being controlled by her husband or clan, who tell women who to vote for in elections. The WPF also provides education and analysis of the political parties' policies. Women are then able to judge the impact these policies would have on their lives, and vote accordingly. Zam Zam explained how the war in Somalia between 1988 and 1991 meant that women were left to fend for themselves. While displaced in refugee camps in Ethiopia, they organised their communities and started small trading businesses. Upon their return to Somaliland, many women took on men's role as the family provider. "Women are the backbone of society today," said Zam Zam. "Sometimes, you even hear people saying they hope their baby will be a girl, as women work hard and bring in income." Education for women has driven this process forward, she added. While women in education are still in the minority, improvements have occurred, such as at Amoud university, in Borama. But men continue to control politics. The clan-based system has traditionally dominated Somali life, excluding women from the decision making process. Source: CIIR
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