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Somali women see hope but face long battle for rights

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Women in Mogadishu are enjoying more opportunities and freedom than before. (AFP)

Women in Mogadishu are enjoying more opportunities and freedom than before, but there is still a long way to go.

Sahra never thought she’d be driving through her home town.

Just a few years ago, the thought of a women cruising along Mogadishu’s highways was inconceivable, such was the control exerted by the al-Qaeda linked extremists al-Shebab, who controlled the city and banned women from being behind the wheel.

“What we were looking for was to get [the] government to make a change. We saw the change, so we returned home, I have been here for six months. I can’t believe I’m driving a car with my own hands, traveling through the town without armed guards and dressed smartly touring my city,” said Sahra Mohamed Ali, Woman driver.

It’s nearly two years since Shebab were forced out of the Somali capital, and life for Mogadishu’s women has changed beyond recognition.

At this beauty salon, they can openly get henna painted and their hair done.

Although some beauty shops operated when the Shebab controlled this part of the city, they had to do so discreetly, and the women were often threatened.

“Our business is now very good, we are very happy, our beauty salon is recruiting more young women for the work. The new employees are also very happy,” said Nasteha Hassan, Beauty Shop owner.
But there’s still a long way to go until women are treated equally.

When one told a journalist she’d been raped recently, instead of police looking for her attacker, they arrested her and jailed her.

And women’s groups say that attacks are still happening, and often.

“It seems to us the verdict against rape victim is an injustice, because, there are millions of women whose rights are violated - raped, killed, made to suffer- and they can’t talk. They are silent,” said Batula Sheikh Ahmed Gaballe, Chairperson of Somali National Women Organization.

Day by day, things are slowly improving for Mogadishu’s women, but the fight is far from over.



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