By Yasmeen Maxamuud
Soo dhowow Marwo Seynab,
We want to welcome you to the cradle of your nation, the bosom of your people. We are part of you and you in turn have already become part of our hope and inspiration. On behalf of Somali women, please allow me to welcome you as The First Lady of Somalia.
We also want to thank you for being the force behind your husband. We celebrate with you and we are in awe of how in less than twenty four hours your husband, our new president Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, resorted back hope in corners of our nation where hope has evaporated.
Since your husband became our president, we Somali women, have chanted and broke into poetry lines, we cried a good cry that has been fermenting as we watched our country go down the drain. We laughed and the events of the past forty eight hours have been our joy. We felt part of your husband’s historic win, because we know him to be a caring man of dignity. As the jubilation continues in our hearts, the hard work must begin.
For over twenty-five years Somali women have seen administrations come and go as they struggled in their plight. Their predicament has never been more crippling and devastating. The drought that has raged in our land, has had much more devastation in the women of Somalia; that is because women are the most vulnerable in society and the most prone to violence, hunger, poverty and thirst. Their strive has been mostly done on their own backs; and there hasn’t been any sweeping programs to address their needs. No campaign has ever been established to safeguard their survival.
Our political system has caused injury to our women. Violence against women has been the order of business. Today rape and other violent crimes against women are rampant. It has become the norm for our society with our own men, as well as foreign troops in our country to violate and cause the most humiliating violence against our women.
The dire need of women is more staggering today because of poor governance, lack of strong institutions, widespread corruption, and marginalization of women. There has not been any sustainable development to safeguard and combat violence, injustices and rampant devastation of poverty. The crises are acute at this point as our new president takes office.
We feel things are different now. We have a president who cares and a First Lady who we expect to take women’s issues at the forefront of this administration. Somalia’s dignity is in her women. Somali women have been left to the abyss of struggle and she had done well to keep her society abreast. Our pride is in our women. The human face of Somalia is its poor women. They are our unified challenge. Somali women belong to each other.
We Somali women have so much opportunity to help our sisters. Our clan is our struggle. We know you will not be a woman who forgets the masses while she lavishes. We know you to be a woman of good character. Poverty has stolen our women’s dignity; it has reduced them to mere survivors, let’s not allow their dreams to be stolen.
We need to allow our women’s imaginations to run wild so they are creative, entrepreneurial and leaders. Let’s give them tools and skills to reach for the starts. They don’t want handouts, they need opportunity. Let us join our hands across the globe to make sure women in rural Somalia are no longer in the back burner of the big agenda of this government. Let’s train them, mentor them; allow them to flourish in whatever they choose to do. Let’s not talk down to them; but seek their advice and let’s include them in their own developments.
I am positive their lives will see drastic positives change under your husband’s administration. But we can’t wait for the system to remember them; we need to remind the system they are ready to put all that hard work, all the struggle and all the bootstrap trait to work to earn and contribute to society in great ways. Women and girls are looking up to you Madam First Lady to inspire them and ignite the spirit of womanhood. They are rising artist, entrepreneurs, mothers, farmers, students and potential tech moguls and the next big thing could come from them. Our collective desertion has halted their potential. It’s an ugly tarnish of our own humanity, but together we can put the necessary groundwork in place. The work ahead of us is massive. We must unite as women to make sure poverty doesn’t steal the ingenuity of our women.
We appeal to you to be the First Lady who takes Somali women initiatives to see the light of day. The state of our women is not good, but there is hope in the promise seen in the unexpected change sweeping the country. Greed has stolen from us the precious gift of potential. Unfortunately we have been silent partners of greed. Whether we promoted greed for our own gains or we were silent. Women in our society were forced to burry loved ones due to violence and the devastation of famine. It’s a shame people in our midst are dying from poverty and thirst in the twenty first century.
Our nation is blessed with resources, but corruption and mismanagement have made it impposible for development in all areas to take root. We appeal to you to join us as we end that usual practice so every Somali family has a decent meal, three times a day. Our women are courageous and resilient, Its high time to be disruptive leaders since our political system isn’t allowing our women to be uplifted so they can move forward and compete in the world arena. Be an advocate for Somali women’s rights and a voice for the voiceless Madam First Lady.
Now we need to assure the future of our young women doesn’t vanish because we didn’t act. We must act and we must unite and we must allow history to remember us not as women who amass wealth to build houses across the globe, but as women who rise to the occasion of need .
It’s very important to recognize the progress made by Parliament electing women in their mix, which I am sure is one of the major factors that led to the great outcome of the election. We know the future is bright and forward looking for the president, therefore we advise for our president to consider including women in the most prominent cabinet positions. That road has already been paved by the former president Hassan Sheikh, who was the first to appoint a woman, Madam Fozia Haji Adam as deputy prime minister and foreign minister in his administration.
Women have shown amazing interest in high office, but the Somali political system wasn’t ready until now. Let this government be an example to utilize the amazing talent of our women. The machine of government needs all its citizens not just the males. A government that ignores the capabilities of women will not see its agenda flourish. Somali women have been educating themselves in great numbers, they have shown remarkable leadership; it will be amiss not to use their expertise.
We urge our new president to dismantle the box and make this an administration of example. This brave move will encourage regional administrations to also consider appointing Somali women for more than the women ministry. Collaborate with women in all fields, regions and villages of Somalia to come up with a forward looking inclusive agenda for women.
We Somali women across the globe urge our president’s cabinet choices to be as loud and daring as his election. And in the words of the slogan made famous by president Obama “Yes we can.”
Let us unite for our women.
Thank You Our First Lady.
Author and CEO, Humanity Against Poverty