Wednesday March 8, 2023
By Tiina Intelmann
International Women’s Day gives us all the opportunity to renew our commitment to the empowerment, education and advancement of women and girls around the world. I would like to pay a special tribute to Somali women who continue to break barriers and overcome hardship to contribute to Somalia’s progress.
These incredible Somali women range from the mothers at home raising the next generation, to those operating small and large businesses, civil society activists and women leaders who continue to use their voices to fight for an equal society.
Despite some advances, Somalia’s gender inequality remains alarming - the fourth highest in the world. There are huge challenges. Over half of women in Somalia are illiterate, over a third are married before they turn 18. Many face violence, harassment and discrimination at every level.
This year’s International Women’s Day also takes place in the shadow of one of the worst drought in 40 years. While such crises affect entire communities, women and girls often suffer the most – risking their safety to trek for hours to search water. Child marriage on the rise as drought crisis intensifies
I have seen how Somali women have been taking care of their families and neighbours, with many of them having travelled over long distances to bring their children to safety. The EU is committed to continuing our support to Somali women and girls and we have implemented projects to help mitigate the impact of drought on vulnerable communities including women and girls.
Societies which nurture the potential of both men and women gain immensely, not least in terms of greater stability, economic growth and political development.
Over the years, we have supported projects that directly benefit women including health assistance, education and business development. We are ensuring that women feel safe in the streets at all times by installing street lighting. We have helped 80,000 girls gain access to education in 334 schools across Somalia.
We are committed to accelerating progress on empowering women and girls working together with all with stakeholders at national, regional and multilateral levels;
Working with partners, the EU is supporting Somali women to participate in formal and informal decision making and have their voices heard. We have worked with women community leaders to promote their contribution to conflict resolution, reconciliation and broader political processes. Gender equality is not only a matter of social justice, it goes hand in hand with peace and development.
We respond to gender based violence and protect victims including through livelihood training in order to reduce social exclusion and build community resilience. Globally, the EU is also committed to ensuring that 85% of all new actions contribute to gender equality and women’s empowerment by 2025
In my time here, I have met Somali women who are the backbone of the society. Many of those inspirational women are working tirelessly towards promoting, empowering and ensuring an inclusive society for women. These are key values the EU also stands for and I salute their determination, strength, and courage.
Tiina Intelmann is the European Union Ambassador to Somalia