Special Bilan Media series on the United Nations’ efforts to improve local governance across Somalia 

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Bilan is Somalia’s first ever all-women media team. Staffed and run entirely by women with full editorial independence, the unit covers hard news and in-depth features, holding leaders to account and making sure the media represents all citizens, men and women, weak and powerful, rich and poor.

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Effective local governance is an essential part of rebuilding Somalia’s physical infrastructure and social mechanisms, much of which have been destroyed during decades of conflict and instability. The Joint United Nations Programme on Local Governance (JPLG) has played a key role in improving the way government is run at city and state levels. It helps to build roads, clinics, schools and other facilities, train government staff and improve the political representation of marginalised groups, including women. Journalists from Bilan Media have travelled across Somalia to assess the progress of some of JPLG’s work. Kiin Hasan Fakat went to Jubaland State to report on the JPLG’s efforts to help more women enter politics.

There have been real results from the dialogue forums and coordination meetings organised by the JPLG in Jubaland, with more women entering the regional parliament and district councils. In the last round of elections, the number of women in the state legislature increased from two to eight, in part as a result of the project.

Shukri Hussein Ahmed, who sits on Afmadow’s district council, said her career path changed thanks to the training and confidence-building of the JPLG’s project.

“We took part in discussions and forums about women’s rights. Training built our political knowledge and skills,” she said. “All of these interventions helped me and other women become actively involved in local politics.”

Photo: Afmadow district council buildings

The deputy chairman of Afmadow district council, Salah Umar Abdi, said the female-focussed training and debates organised by the JPLG had led to more women becoming involved in the local administration, including young women.

He said the project had also helped change people’s attitudes towards women in politics, as traditionally politics is seen as a male preserve.

“The JPLG also helped establish and equip the offices of Afmoadow local council,” said Mr Abdi. “This has facilitated our work.”

Abdirizak Shafi is in charge of Jubaland’s JPLG project. He said the JPLG’s work had contributed towards significant change for women in politics, from local to state level.

“Jubaland’s ministry of internal affairs, working together with the JPLG, have strengthened the role of women in state parliament and district councils,” he said.

“The work we did in the forums and coordination meetings resulted in Jubaland’s parliament having more women MPs than any other state parliament in Somalia,” said Mr Shafi. The number rose from two to eight.”

Mr Shafi said Jubaland’s ministry of internal affairs is now planning to change local council laws so that the 30 percent quota for women can be achieved in the next round of elections.