By Adow Jubat
In a rare event, over 500 women from Ijara District, Garissa County, on Tuesday came out in protest, claiming men have sidelined them in politics.
Interestingly, the protesters were not the usual women activists, but common residents who say the burden of inefficient leadership imposed by their male counterparts must end.
Donning dhiraa, traditional Somali women in-house dressing and singing dirges to symbolise the end of male domination, they sat for six hours under acacia trees at Masalani Primary School before making their statement of intent.
And in a clear show of wanting to make their own decision on how and who to vote for in the coming General Election, they turned away men and educated women who showed interest to join them in their protest.
Speaker after speaker enumerated how men dominated politics of the region while it was evident men rarely participated in voting.
Nominated councillor Bustay Dahir said women have now realised how Somali men used outdated cultural practices to deny them their civic rights in electing leaders of their choice and force them to support leaders endorsed by their husbands or male relatives.
She added, “Every election season, politicians seeking positions enter pre-election promises with male voters, mainly elders, disregarding women and youth in the process.”
She went on, “And since the elders enter into agreements with many candidates after taking bribes, they absent themselves from voting on election day fearing to be discovered, leaving only women to cast their votes.”
Fatuma Rinow said Somali women were repeatedly short-changed by politicians who give audience to the male voters only.
“Most women you see here vote religiously every other election in this country, but I can tell you with a lot of confidence that none of them has ever got access even to their local councillor. We can not see our leaders because they have placed men as their gate keepers,” she said amid applause of approval from the womenfolk.
“For instance, if a woman wants to tell her elected leader about her daughter who has dropped out of school because of sanitary pads, how is she expected to tell this to a third party who is a man,” she asked.