Sunday, January 27, 2013

Rethinking 42 with Ilham Hasan of Somaliland, first woman to be elected, who almost made it

I met Ilham Hasan on my recent trip to Hargeisa, Somaliland. I met her at Shaqodoon, an NGO, where she and her team are focused on harnessing the power of the Internet to develop the job market for the youth in the Somalia and Somaliland. Prior to Shaqodoon she was a presenter on television. However, the reason for this interview is to catch up with her after she ran for office as a representative of the city of Hargeisa, in Somaliland's Local Council. The Local Council, in Somaliland's complex political system, is one of the three layers of representative bodies, along with the Parliament and the Council of Elders. Not a bad career track record for a 25 year old Somali woman.

Divon: So how did you get it involved in politics?

I was always a social activist. Initially, I was a Youth Leader in the NDB party, under Mrs. Fawzia Adan who is now the Deputy Prime Minister of Somalia (our neighboring country). I have a strong desire to make sure that all people are treated in a fair and just way throughout their lives.

Divon: It must be unusual for a woman to run for a public office in Somaliland, how did your family take it?

When I decided to run for office myself, my mother was supportive, but my father strongly opposed, saying that its not the place for a girl to get involved in politics. Finally, I was able to convince him to allow me to run, and he was one of my biggest supporters - campaigning for me with the Council of Elders.

Divon: Tell me about the election

I campaigned from door to door, and got a lot support from my friends in Somaliland and in the diaspora overseas, and also from people that knew me from television. However, it was very difficult, as most people vote according to their clan, and they say "you are a woman, women don't have a clan".

The issue of women running in the election was a hot topic, with the Council of Elders strongly fighting to disallow it, and on the other hand Woman Right and Civil Rights organizations were supporting it. Since I was the youngest candidate I got a lot of media attention and the newspapers kept on writing about me.

Finally, my party, Rays, managed to get one seat in the Local Council, which was very good news for me, as I was the top candidate on the party's list.

Divon: So you are now a member of the Local Council?

Unfortunately not. I got disqualified because I am a woman. In fact, the National Council decided to disqualify all women from all parties. So my male friend in my party, who was #2 on this list, got in instead of me.

Divon: Wow, that is outrageous! Is there anything that can be done to change the decision?

Women in this country have done a lot to contribute to peace and political stability, but we need to work more on establishing a strong relationship with our traditional leaders, to make them aware of the need to change our society's approach to women - both in urban settings and in pastoral communities.

We, the women that got disqualified, are currently engaged in a public debate on television and the media, to try to get the National Council to revisit its decision, but we are a very traditional country, and it is very hard.

Divon: Thanks Ilham for an inspiring story, and good luck

you may contact +Ilham ALI on

No comments:

Post a Comment