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» 13.01.2011 - Kenyan women milk fortunes from camel
» 11.06.2010 - Rwanda women win by formalising businesses
» 17.03.2010 - Gender inequality still rife, World Bank report
» 28.10.2008 - Somali woman stoned to death for adultery
» 07.05.2008 - Somalia's celebrated woman presenter escapes murder
» 02.01.2008 - Somalia: MSF medics freed
» 19.11.2007 - Somalis launch public gay site
» 19.01.2005 - Somali MP in Netherlands defies death threats

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Gender - Women

Somali women more engaged in decision-making

afrol News, 22 January - A new survey suggests that Somali women now are slightly more involved in household decision-making than before the civil war that started in 1991. However, still only 20 percent of Somali women say they are allowed to make decisions on household spending.

The new socio-economic survey of Somalia, the first such report in over two decades, earlier this week was released by the World Bank and the UN's development agency (UNDP). While mapping the participation of Somali women in decision-making processes, the UN agencies found that more than one decade of political chaos had left women with some more powers, although still very limited.

Traditionally, Somali women been "considered to play a passive role in both family and public spheres," the survey notes. "However, it is now thought that they are becoming more active in the economic and social front after the civil war."

The survey schedule therefore had incorporated a section to assess the role of women in household decision-making and their participation in various economic and social activities. These questions were administered only to the female members of the households.

Women are either consulted or they make decisions on purchasing durable/ semi-durable household items (73 percent), entertaining guests (68 percent), supporting relatives (77 percent), spending on ceremonies (71 percent), managing the family budget (79 percent), educating children (81 percent) and selling household produce (50 percent), the survey found.

On the other hand, Somali women were left to make final decision only in very few issues. When it came to spending and budgeting, only around 20 percent of the surveyed women said they were left to "make decisions". Only 8 percent were left to decide on selling household produce.

Female members of the household were also questioned on their participation in women's group and local councils. A popular community based women's group is uruurka haweenka, normally formed at district level by female representatives from different communities.

Only 6.4 percent and 16.8 percent of the urban households and 3.6 percent and 13 percent of the rural and nomadic households confirmed regular and occasional participation in women's groups respectively.

Women from 71.2 percent of the households in urban and 78 percent from non-urban areas stated that they had "never participated in any women's group." Similarly, their participation rates in local councils were reported to be "quite low," according to the UN survey.

- Even though comparative figures are not available for the pre-war period, the general impression is that these rates represent an upward trend, the survey nevertheless found.

This had been "evident in women's participation in economic activities." About 21 percent of households reported women working regularly on family farms or herding. 11 percent were running a shop or kiosk and 8 percent were undertaking wage employment. This was believed to represent an increase from pre-war figures.

While women's participation in decision-making processes was found to be slightly increasing, general social conditions for Somalia's women have rapidly deteriorated during the years of no central government. Social services are close to non-existing as there is no central or regional government.

As a result of this, only 13 percent of Somali girls are now enrolled in primary schools. Further, access to medical aid has severely deteriorated. For birth-giving women, the decay of social services has been extra hard, as almost two in every 1000 women die giving birth.

The survey results show that most childbirth takes place without adequate medical facilities. "In fact, for the country as a whole, 88.2 percent of childbirths during one year prior to the survey took place at home; only 8.8 percent were in hospitals or other health facilities," the UN report says.

- Medical assistance is usually absent during childbirth in rural and nomadic areas as only about 0.5 percent deliveries are handled at hospitals or other health facilities, the survey says. "This appears to be mainly due to lack of access to adequate health facilities. Only 2.9 percent of the rural and nomadic households confirmed the availability of a hospital."

The main sources of assistance during childbirth are traditional birth attendants. About 43 percent of all childbirths in urban and 61 percent in rural and nomadic areas are attended by these attendants.

Health facilities however exist. About 95 percent of the urban population and 60 percent of the rural and nomadic population had confirmed the availability of at least one health facility within an average distance of 1.3 km and 2.4 km respectively. Half of the households also found the affordable.

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