Somali PM reserves 30% of Parliament seats for women in poll

Women's groups worried about the role of clan politics in February 8 election

Members of Somalia's federal parliament attend the swearing-in ceremony at the School Policio police training camp in the capital Mogadishu, December 27, 2016. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

Nearly a third of Somalia's parliamentary seats will be reserved for womenin an election next month, the country's prime minister said.

Although some Somali women's groups welcomed Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble's statement, some said making the change in time for the February 8 election would be challenging.

Others said it also depended on the commitment of Somalia's clan leaders.

Somalia has been riven by civil war since the fragile security situation, elections consist of clan delegates choosingMPs as opposed to a one-person, one-vote electoral system.

Mr Roble made the quota pledge after talks with female MPs – whohold 24 per cent of the 329 seats in Somalia's lower and upper houses of parliament.

Ensuring that clan leaders nominate enough female representatives will be vital to securing the full 30 per cent quota, activists said.

"The seats are shared among clans ... we want assurances that we will reach our target of 30 per cent women in the next parliament," said Suad Salah, co-founder of LeadNow, a grass-roots movement aimed at increasing women's political voice.

Somalia has high rates of child marriage and gender-based violence, including rape and female genital mutilation. TheUN says 45 per cent of women are married before 18and 98 per cent have undergone FGM.

Women's rights groups say a stronger voice at the top would have a trickle-down effect, helping women at the grass-roots level fight abuse, discrimination and inequality.

Ruqiya Muhiyadin, 38, who wants to run as a candidate in the capital, Mogadishu, expressed concern whether the clan leaders would choose women candidates.

"Initially we doubted we would get our share in the next Parliament. I appeal for our cultural leaders to consider the PM's latest pledge for women," she said.