In conservative Somalia, a rare female presidential candidate

Member of Parliament Fauzia Yusuf H. Adam is well aware of the challenges of winning votes in a country where women are often marginalized. In an interview with The Associated Press, he described the struggle of leading a State Department employee who was overly male.

“They were very reluctant to cooperate with me because I am a woman,” she said.

Even as more educated women from the larger diaspora return to Somalia to help rebuild the country after three decades of conflict, Adam’s attitude towards the office is mostly suspicious, if sympathetic. Even friends and coworkers see her opportunities as impossible because of her gender.

“She is fine, but unfortunately she is a woman,” said Dr Abdiwahid Mohamed Adam, a doctor at Mogadishu Memorial Hospital. Complicating his bid, he said, is the fact that Adam comes from the broken region of Somaliland, a relatively stable region in the north that has for years sought international recognition as an independent country. .

But soft-spoken Adam, a widow and mother of three children, said she believes her run for president is worthwhile but not in vain on many levels, while mid-term political tensions have pushed back election timing once again. has given. towards the end of October.

“I want to break this barrier against women so that in the near future many others have the courage to run and even win,” she said. He said that it is time to fight for the rights of women.

Somalia’s years of insecurity, marked by devastating attacks by the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab extremist group, have also prompted Adam to flee. “There was devastation in this country for the last 30 years,” she said. “Young people are dying like flies, killing each other, exploding themselves, killing other people.”

Like others in Somalia, she has seen insecurity weaken the foundation of the country. High unemployment, poor education and one of the world’s least equipped health systems are all the result. Corruption and political strife have not helped.

Adam said, “I thought that a woman might need a woman’s leadership to bring peace and stability to this country.”

His presidential campaign has been relatively low-profile due to insecurity and the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of holding large public rallies, Adam prefers smaller indoor gatherings. “It could be less expensive but also less effective,” said Leiban Abdullahi Farah, a political analyst in the capital Mogadishu.

Unlike many other candidates and everyday people in Somalia, where face masks are rarely seen despite Africa having one of the highest COVID-19 case fatalities, Adam says she takes the pandemic seriously. and speaks frankly about its dangers after many friends die.

“I keep giving advice on this pandemic, especially how badly it affects women and the poorest of them,” she said. “We don’t have a good health system in place to deal with this phenomenon.”

Women in Somalia have been particularly hard hit by the virus, Adam said, both physically and financially.

“I personally had my two vaccines, many people took it, but many poor people in camps, internally displaced people, very poor, vulnerable people don’t have that chance,” she said. “What I am hoping is to win this election. (Pandemic) will be one of my priorities, because we don’t want to lose more people.”

Apart from some awareness messages, the federal government of Somalia does little to implement basic virus prevention measures of social distancing, hand washing and wearing masks.

At the country’s coronavirus treatment center in the capital, deputy director Abdirahim Omar Amin told the AP that “a lot of women have been infected” by COVID-19. Health ministry figures, however, show that men represent more than 70% of confirmed cases in Somalia.

“People don’t have self-awareness, or they are in a state of denial, call it ‘just heartburn’ and stay at home, and the person is brought here when it’s too late,” he said.

Among the women, Adam hopes to help if elected president is Fatuma Mohamed, one of hundreds of thousands living in camps in Mogadishu after being displaced by climate shocks such as insecurity or drought.

Mohamed said her husband died of COVID-19, while she survived. Now she struggles to raise two young children, earning money by doing laundry when she can.

“This disease has devastated us, it killed my mother and my husband,” she said. “I haven’t seen anyone helping me. I struggle alone.”

Adam’s path in life has been very different. Married to a general, she first entered politics in her hometown of Hargeisa in Somaliland, but fled to Mogadishu by local politicians seeing her as a threat. She later started a political party, the National Democratic Party, and held some of the highest positions in the country.

Now, in his pursuit of the presidency, Adam has in mind Somaliland as part of his ambitions.

“If I’m elected, I’m sure I can reunite my country, because I belong to both sides, North and South,” and I believe I’m the only person who does. Is able to do as I have already made one. integration plan. “

If her candidacy fails, she said, her goal being to become prime minister, “I will always advise whoever wins the presidency.”

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