by Estrella Chocron

In 2022, Somalia held both presidential and parliamentary elections. Political differences and disagreements over election processes delayed the presidential election for more than 15 months and parliamentary elections for a month and a half. Some fought for direct elections as promised in the Provisional Constitution, and others believed an indirect electoral system was sufficient. The representatives of both houses of parliament elected Hassan Sheikh Mohamud from the Union for Peace and Development Party as President on May 15th. It will be Mr Mohamud's second term as president, as he previously served from 2012 to 2017. In the third round of voting, Mr Mohamud won the presidency with 214 votes compared with the incumbent Mohamed Abdullahi "Farmajo" 's 110 votes.

Somalia is experiencing one of the world's most protracted and complex crises and complex dynamics between geographical areas, clans and ethnic groups. It resulted in more than thirty years of political instability and conflict. The country, and most life aspects, including politics, are divided along clan lines. The clan system is heavily gendered. It grants distinct and specific roles to men and women. It stems from male systems of inheritance and leadership, which has a consequential impact on women and their societal role.

Somalia's bicameral parliamentary system is mainly clan-based: clan elders select delegates, who elect the 275 members of the House of the People and the 54 members of the Senate. The President is the Head of State, and the Prime Minister is the Head of Government. The legislators choose the President by a secret ballot. The President appoints a prime minister with the approval of parliament. Regarding women's representation, a combination of voluntary and legislated quotas is used in the House of the People, set at 30%, respectively. There is no quota for the upper house. The 2012 Constitution guarantees equality and prohibits discrimination

Women’s political participation

Dozens of women contested the election to the House of the People. Following the 2022 elections, women represented 54 (19.64%) of the 274 members elected to the House of the People. One vacancy remains. In contrast, in 2016, 67 (24.36%) of 275 members elected to the lower house were women. The proportion of women elected to the House of the People has declined. It remains below the target of 30% women parliamentarians, the Somali Prime Minister and the former President committed to with regional leaders.

A record of 39 presidential candidates was registered, and only one woman: Fawzia Yusuf H. Adam, former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs. Winning votes in a conservative Muslim nation where women have historically been marginalised is challenging. Aware of this, Fawzia Yusuf H. Adam saw her presidential campaign as an opportunity to break down barriers for other women. She says being a woman is an asset in helping Somalia emerge from years of deadly violence and instability. Fawzia Yusuf H. Adam needed to receive more votes to proceed to the second round of voting.

For the first time in Somali history, a woman, Sadia Yasin Haji Samatar, was elected Deputy Speaker of the lower house of parliament with 137 votes.

Despite a strong movement for the inclusive representation of women in leadership positions and the increased economic role of women since the war - adding to their responsibilities - women remain politically marginalised in all regions of Somalia. The country has one of the lowest rankings for gender equality globally. In particular, early marriage is a common practice, and mothers' and infants' mortality rates are among the world's highest. Poverty, conflict and the clan culture of strict male hierarchy and authority negatively impact women. Somali women are either excluded from formal decision-making and property ownership or participate only within the confines of patriarchy, where power structures are male-dominated. Therefore, Somali women face challenges that significantly reduce, if not negate, their potential for political participation and leadership, resulting in the low political representation of women.

Concerning women’s representation and participation, the Garowe Principles I (2011) and Garowe Principles II (2012) provided 30% reserved seats for women in the parliament sworn-in in August 2012. Together, the two documents were to form the basis of the Somali Constitution. However, the Constitution does not include a direct quota, instead mentioning the inclusion of women “in an effective way” across decision-making organs of the government. The Provisional Constitution of 2012 sets a quota for the overall composition of the Parliamentary Service Commission. According to article 111D paragraph (2), at least two of the four members elected by the House of the People and at least one of the two members elected by the Upper House must be women. In addition, the 2020 electoral agreement reiterated the importance of protecting inclusivity in the electoral process. In particular, it encouraged political leaders to advocate with clans on reserving parliamentary seats for women to ensure the 30% quota is met. Finally, a political party shall not be entitled to receive funding if more than two-thirds of its registered leaders and staff are of the same gender, same clan or hail from the same region of the country (Article 23.2.b, Political Parties Law). In 2021, the House of the People approved a bill to reserve 30% of the seats for women. It has yet to be approved by the upper house.


After months of delay, Somalia's presidential and parliamentary elections were concluded, with Hassan Sheikh Mohamud becoming President for a second time. He received 214 votes compared to the incumbent President’s 110 votes. Following the elections, the representation of women stood at 19.64% in the House of the People.

Many hoped this year's elections would be held through universal suffrage. Still, the country abandoned this idea following a central lobby by clan elders and the political elite. Ayanle Abdirahman, a civil society activist in Mogadishu, is disappointed with Somali clan politics. Mr Abdirahman contends it allows for "329 hand-picked members of Parliament [to decide] the future of ordinary people in this country". Despite the promises of former governments to move towards universal suffrage, this is the sixth indirect Somali election, according to Mohamed Mubarak, executive director of Marqaati, Somalia's first and only anti-corruption organisation.

There is a need for more female representation and participation. "Without just representation for women, there will be further erosions in democracy and human rights as our governance structures fail to represent the voices of so many women and their respective intersections," Hodan Ali, Senior Advisor for the Mayor of Mogadishu, stated.

Despite extensive campaigning by women activists for it to be signed into law enforced and promises from former Presidents, Somalia is yet to legislate a 30% quota for women in parliament. According to civil society organisations, the main issue in the elections was "the lack of a legal framework that supported women's seats and inadequate mechanisms to ensure the 30% quota for women is achieved." Drafting and passing a comprehensive gender equality law would help uphold women's rights to protection from gender-based violence, harmful cultural practices, and economic and political equality.


In July 2022, the Inter Parliamentary Union ranked Somalia 119th out of 185 countries for percentage of women in parliament.

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