The International Women's Day (IWD) also known as the United Nations Day for Women's Rights and International Peace, is a global day annually held on 8 March to celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women throughout history and across nations. This century old event only received global attention in 1975 when the UN called for an International Women's Year, convening the first conference on women and with the UN General Assembly inviting Member States to proclaim 8 March as the "UN Day for Women's Rights and International Peace" in 1977. The IWD aims to help nations worldwide eliminate discrimination against women and focuses on helping women gain full and equal participation in global development.
This year's theme for IWD is "Connecting girls, inspiring futures". The theme goes beyond the call for the involvement of girls in the day's events and looks at ways to empower and enable girls to take their place as future leaders of tomorrow. Despite the fact that women and girls account for more than half the total population in most countries and globally, there is little recognition that equal opportunities has a direct impact on efforts for sustainable peace and development.
The United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), in solidarity with all women of the world, and especially those in conflict and post-conflict contexts, expresses its solidarity and admiration for the struggles of women for a just peace and stability in Somalia. Somali women - inside Somalia and in the Diaspora - have long realized that peace and security are non-negotiable prerequisites for sustainable development as demonstrated by the great role they have played and continue to play in the search for lasting peace.
Millennium Development Goal three calls for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women, including elimination of gender disparity at all levels of education and ensuring equal opportunities for girls, boys, women and men in all spheres of life – including the public life. To this end, I call on the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, the regional governments of Puntland and Somaliland, the Diaspora, business community and Somali people to invest in the girl child through education, elimination of harmful practices that hinder their progress and in providing employment opportunities for skilled and talented young girls. To invest in girls is to invest in the future of Somalia.
The IWD is an occasion to review how far women have come in their quest and struggle for equality, peace and development, we at UNPOS would like to take stock by highlighting the gains made towards increasing women's representation and participation in the ongoing peace process for Somalia. The current political framework dubbed "Roadmap" is an outline of the most critical tasks that must be implemented in order to end the transition in Somalia and provides opportunities for the full and effective engagement of all stakeholders including women and youth. Further, the principles adopted in the recently concluded Consultative Conferences held in Garowe provide clear steps for ending the transition by August this year, including principles on a New Federal Parliament (NFP), a Constituent Assembly (CA), and the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC). A momentous milestone is the inclusion of a requirement of 30% quota for women in the NFP, CA and the IIEC.
While we at UNPOS take this opportunity to congratulate the women of Somalia for this unprecedented achievement, I would like to call on the Somalia community, including the civil society, elders, religious leaders, men and particularly the women and youth to seize this golden opportunity with the urgency it deserves. An enormous task lies ahead – that of mobilisation and selection based on the agreed upon formula of a 1,000 member CA including 300 women from all regions within a very tight time frame. We will also need to select 67 and five women for the NFP and IIEC respectively.
UNPOS believes that men and women, boys and girls have the same rights and opportunities to work, access knowledge and education, and participate in decision-making. A society that excludes one segment – especially women and girls - from these rights and opportunities is not sustainable, and we must all work together to ensure that we do not let this opportunity for peace slip away.