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In conservative Somalia, a rare presidential candidate


MP Fawzia Yusuf H. Adam is well aware of the challenges of gaining votes in a country where women often remain marginalized. In an interview with the Associated Press, she described the struggle to lead an overwhelmingly male Foreign Office staff.

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

Even though more educated women are returning to Somalia from the great diaspora to help rebuild the country after three decades of conflict, attitudes towards Adam’s candidacy are mostly skeptical, if not sympathetic. Even her friends and colleagues consider her chances to be almost impossible due to her gender.

“She’s good, but unfortunately she’s a woman,” said Abdiwahid Mohamed Adam, a doctor at Mogadishu Memorial Hospital. What complicates his candidacy, he said, is the fact that Adam comes from the breakaway region of Somaliland, a relatively stable area in the north that has for years sought international recognition as an independent country.

But the soft voice of Adam, the widow and mother of three, said she believes her presidential run is worth it, not futile, on many levels as the election schedule has been pushed back once. more amid political tensions from mid-October towards the end of the year.

“I want to break down this barrier against women, so that in the near future many more will have the courage to run and even win,” she said, adding that it was time to fight for rights. women.

Years of insecurity in Somalia marked by devastating attacks by the al-Qaeda-linked extremist group al-Shabab also prompted Adam to run. “There has been chaos in this country for the past 30 years,” she said. “Young people are dying like flies, killing each other, exploding, killing other people.

“I thought that a woman could be what this country needed, the leadership of a woman, to bring peace and stability,” said Adam.

His presidential campaign has been relatively low-key due to insecurity and the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of having large public gatherings, Adam prefers small indoor gatherings. “It could be cheaper but also less effective,” said Liban Abdullahi Farah, political analyst in the capital, Mogadishu.

Unlike many other contenders and ordinary people in Somalia, where face masks are barely seen despite one of Africa’s highest COVID-19 death rates, Adam says she takes the pandemic seriously and speaks up frankly about its dangers after seeing several friends die.

“I continue to give advice on this pandemic, especially its impact on women and the poorest of them,” she said. “We don’t have a good health system to deal with this phenomenon.

Women in Somalia have been particularly affected by the virus, Adam said, both physically and economically.

“I have personally taken my two vaccines, a lot of people have done it, but a lot of the poor in the camps, the internally displaced people, the very poor and vulnerable people are not so lucky,” she declared. “What I hope is to win this election. (The pandemic) will be one of my priorities because we don’t want to lose more people. “

Aside from a few outreach messages, the Somali federal government is doing little to enforce basic virus prevention measures of social distancing, hand washing and wearing masks.

“The people themselves are unaware, or they’re in a state of denial, calling it ‘just heartburn’ and staying home, and the person is brought here when it’s too late.” , did he declare.

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

Mohamed said her husband died of COVID-19, while she was surviving. Now she is struggling to raise two young children, making money doing laundry when she can.

“This disease devastated us, it killed my mother and my husband,” she said. “I didn’t see anyone reaching out to me. I fight on my own.

Adam’s journey in life was very different. Married to a general, she first entered politics in her hometown of Hargeisa in Somaliland years ago, but fled to Mogadishu, saying local politicians saw her as a threat. She then founded a political party, the National Democratic Party, and rose to some of the highest office in the country.

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

“If I am elected, I am sure that I could reunite my country because I belong to both sides, the north and the south,” she said, “and I believe that I am the only person capable of it. do because I have already made a plan for unification.

If her candidacy fails, she said, she aims to become prime minister, adding “I would always advise anyone who wins the presidency.”

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ABC News