By Jebril Domenico – Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Thursday, August 20, 2020.
The challenges of gender inequality in Somalia has been raising on for decades, as the modern society has redefined the role of a woman, which is vastly different from what it used to be in the traditional society.
However, patriarchy and gender inequality are always a touchy topic when it comes to Somalia because they are largely influenced by religious beliefs and the culture.
In many Parts of Somalia, Women are still largely considered to be lowly to men, as women are only seen fit to be home keepers and child bearers.
Causes of gender inequality in Somalia
A. Improper Education
“Knowledge is power.” It might not be a strong point, but this is pointing more towards some parts of Somalia that are rejecting western views on women, to stick to cultural ones.
Education is nothing if you leave all you learn in school and still behave like a savage when you get back home. In other words, it must be obvious that you are educated.
There are two ways to this, a community that is poorly educated can never know the worth of women and a woman that is not educated cannot know her rights.
It has also been noticed that parents don’t usually encourage the education of their female children because they believe it will be of no benefit to them, as any money or success she earns in the future, due to her education, will be of her husband’s, not theirs.
B. Tradition and Culture
Tradition is said to be the custom of a particular society, while culture is simply the way of life. Tradition and Culture do not allow women become rulers among the ethnic groups.
In fact, it is deemed an abomination in almost every tribal group. Thus, the typical cultural dogma has plagued many thrones and political seats in Somalia.
It is hard to keep “mentality” as a standalone point, as it is largely influenced by culture and tradition. However, if you look at it from a subjectively, from a woman’s view, it stands alone.
The reason that many women are not ambitious is that they believe top positions are meant for men. Even some ladies complain about having a female boss simply because they are used to having a male boss.
It almost seems clandestine for women to want to occupy a political position or the hot sit in a company. Such a mentality is usually created and forged by a woman’s immediate environment.
It is obvious that religion is one of the top contributors to gender inequality in the world. Some religions or religious practices restrict the role of women to just domestic roles, making it impossible for them to even think about holding a political post.
However, according to Islam women are not considered inferior to men. Men and women have similar rights and, in some areas, women enjoy certain privileges that the men do not.
In terms of property, leadership and trade, women have been given rights and in fact at each turn they have been considered and provided for as appropriate.
It is true to say that Islam gave women rights which are unparalleled in the History of women. Allah has declared in the Holy Qur’an that He has created men and women as equal beings.
“He has created you from a single being; then from that He made its mate . (Ch 39:V.7 ).
Consider, for example, Aisha bint Abu Bakr who was a female scholar of great eminence and a voice of authority in Islamic jurisprudence almost 1500 years ago.
By way of background, Aisha was the daughter of Abu Bakr, one of the Prophet Muhammad’s closest companions, one of the first converts to Islam and the first to assume leadership as Caliph over the Muslim community following the Prophet Muhammad’s death.
Now consider this: Prophet Muhammad fostered Aisha’s education and nurtured her intellectual pursuits. She was considered more knowledgeable than most of her male contemporaries in matters related to Qur’anic interpretation, poetry, medicine and history and men and women alike studied under her instruction.
Aisha also rendered legal decisions (fatwa) and delivered speeches publicly, powerfully and eloquently. During the Prophet Muhammad’s lifetime, Aisha participated in the early battles fought by the new Muslim converts against the Arab pagans who persecuted members of the fledgling faith community.
During the Battle of Uhud, for example, she distributed water bags to the Muslim combatants on the battlefield. Following the Prophet Muhammad’s death, Aisha’s role became increasingly important.
When the third Caliph Othman ibn Affan was assassinated, the Muslim community’s underlying political system was jeopardized by internal division and conflict.
Aisha raised a leading and quite public voice against Ali, the fourth Caliph, in 656 CE. She delivered a public address at a mosque located in Mecca where she swore to avenge the murdered Caliph’s death.
As a result, she garnered the support of many Muslims across Arabia, and eventually led an army into the Battle of the Camel. The speeches she delivered during the battle were noted for their force and candor.
Aisha’s life represents a powerful model for Muslim women’s excellence in scholarship, political engagement and even military leadership.
She excelled in public speaking, commanded an army on the battlefield and instructed both men and women in Islamic jurisprudence.
For those Somalis weary of Western feminism and where Islam continues to hold political, social and religious currency in the society, Aisha’s standard provides a culturally authentic paradigm for Muslim women seeking a leading role in the political, judicial or religious spheres.
Her standing as the Prophet Muhammad’s beloved wife and the daughter of the first Caliph is incontrovertible among Sunni adherents as is her predominant role in government, academia and the law.
As noted above, such Islamic model can serve as powerful, culturally authentic tools in advancing the human rights agenda towards increased female empowerment in the political, social and economic spheres within Somali society.