Woman journalist wins parliament seat in Somalia

Long-time radio and television personality Muna Omar Hassan has won a seat in Somalia’s new parliament representing the northwest Somaliland region. She says her campaign was motivated in part by a desire to improve the lot of Somali journalists.

The 54 members of the federal Upper House are elected by state-level delegates. Somali media reported that Muna won 32 delegate votes to secure her seat in the Upper House of the Mogadishu-based parliament during voting on 8 January.

Each regional state is supposed to reserve 30 percent of its seats in the Upper House for female candidates, though in some cases this requirement has been ignored.

Somali clan elders, who play a key role in the election process, are generally resistant to allowing women into political leadership roles, according to a recent focus group study by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

The study says that clan leaders “demean and frustrate women’s efforts in seeking political leadership as they consider them weak in nature (compared to men) and of less intelligence.” According to clan leaders, Somali cultural norms do not allow women to seek leadership positions, the study concludes, while also noting that such attitudes are changing in some areas.

Muna was the sole woman MP elected during the first phase of the voting for the Somaliland and northern regions on 8 January. “I was motivated to join politics by the desire to find solutions to the plight of Somali journalists,” she said in a statement quoted by AMISOM.

Somalia also has a lower house of parliament called the House of the People, which consists of 275 members drawn from among clan elders and geographic constituencies. The presidential election in the country cannot be held until after selection of the MPs concludes.

Photos: Voting for the Upper House seats by Somaliland and northern region delegates, Mogadishu, Somalia, 9 Jan. 2017 (AMISOM)