This Woman Wants to Prove That Somalia Is Serious About Democracy

Fadumo Dayib’s presidential candidacy forces the African nation to reckon with its alienated political populations.

Fadumo Dayib is an accomplished woman. The 42-year-old mother of four spent 12 years as a healthcare and development specialist with organizations such as the European Union and United Nations, tackling problems like forced migration, gender issues, and HIV/AIDS prevention. And as of this September, Dayib, both a doctoral candidate at the University of Helsinki and fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, is also angling to become Somalia’s first female president. In her candidacy, she acts not an isolated individual, but also as the apotheosis of Somalia’s female and diaspora populations’ ballooning political heft.

Although she currently resides in Finland, Dayib was born in Somalia, but fled during the African nation’s atrocious civil war in the 1990s, living in a Kenyan refugee camp for a time before finally making her way to Scandinavia. But like many members of the Somali diaspora, she has remained deeply engaged with her country. And, despite the countless warnings about how dangerous Somalia is for women, Dayib has decided to channel that engagement into political participation at the highest level. Set to return to her native country early this year, she will campaign on a platform of education, minority protection, and youth employment.

For those not up to date on Somali politics, although the country is currently run by a democratic, federal government which replaced a series of transitional governments in 2012, the country actually has yet to hold full elections. (Members of parliament voted in the first president.) The country’s upcoming 2016 elections will be their first (hopefully) free and fair political contest since 1967, when the young Somali Republic elected President Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke. The assassination of Sharmarke two years later precipitated the dictatorial regime of Mohamed Siad Barre, who in turn laid the ground for decades of civil war after his 1991 ouster.

Given this turbulent history, there exists an unsurprising skepticism among many Somalis regarding whether the 2016 elections will actually happen. Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud outlined plans for election logistics, monitoring, and oversight in an internationally sponsored conference in 2013, hellbent on creating a new constitution that would secure a voice for all. But without the buy-in of autonomous regions like Puntland and Somaliland in the north, both of which have their own functional governments, and under continued threat from al-Shabaab, (a dangerous militant religious organization), he may not have the easiest time delivering on these promises.

Image by James Dahl via Flickr

Yet despite the menace to Somalia’s democratic ambitions, diaspora Somalis have rushed to participate in the new government from day one. This is just the latest in a long trend of Somalis abroad backing their kin in the Horn of Africa—every year 1.5 million Somalis around the world remit $1.3 to two billion dollars to their relatives back home, significantly propping up the local economy. And according to Dr. Laura Hammond of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, diaspora returnees have historically been involved in social services, professional and developmental work, and local politics in Somalia. Dayib herself returned in 2006 to work in Bossaso, Puntland, on HIV/AIDS-related programs for UNICEF.

Over the past few years though, Somali women, long discouraged from taking part in social and political affairs, have struggled to overcome longstanding local taboos. Dayib maintains that as women tend to manage family budgets and maintain important, visible roles in society, it’s only right that a Somali woman ought to take a turn at running the government. Somalia proper now has 35 female members of parliament—two women in the president’s cabinet and a female foreign minister. (Although this only comes out to 14 percent of the 275-person parliament, far short of the Somali constitution’s 30 percent female quota.)

However positive this engagement by returnees and women might seem from the outside, it can rub locals the wrong way. Hammond tells of Somalis expressing concern that members of the diaspora were taking the best jobs and most prominent political seats away from Somalis with greater need and more direct, local experience. The diaspora politicians, in return, easily grow frustrated with clan politics and intrigue, as well as the culture shock of being treated as foreign interlopers by their own kin and countrymen. As for the challenges faced by women, Foreign Minister Fawzia Yusuf Adam describes receiving threats on her life everyday from radical Islamists and traditionalists.

But when returnees and women build local coalitions and support bases, evidence shows they become strong, constructive links in Somalia’s political chain. If Dayib can develop successful ties with Somalia’s diverse and complex communities, her administration would be a powerful sign to her fellow diaspora members, Somali women, and the world at large that the nation has developed a robust, united, and progressive democratic front.

Climate Action Tracker

In 2016, 196 countries signed the Paris Agreement, pledging to combat climate change by taking action to curb the increase in global temperatures. The Paris Agreement requires countries to report on their emissions and what steps they're taking to implement those plans. Now that the countries are coming together again for the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City, it's worth taking a look at what kind of progress they've made.

The Climate Action Trackerkeeps tabs on what each country is doing to limit warming, and if they're meeting their self-set goals. Countries are graded based on whether or not their actions would help limit warming to 1.5 degrees C.

According to a recent article from National Geographic, The Gambia, Morocco, and India are at the head of the class. "Even though carbon emissions in The Gambia, Morocco, and India are expected to rise, they'll fall short of exceeding the 1.5-degree Celsius limit," the article reads. Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States, on the other hand, get a big fat F. "Projected emissions in Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United States are far greater than what it would take to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius."

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Ottawa Humane Society / Flickr

The Trump Administration won't be remembered for being kind to animals.

In 2018, it launched a new effort to reinstate cruel hunting practices in Alaska that had been outlawed under Obama. Hunters will be able to shoot hibernating bear cubs, murder wolf and coyote cubs while in their dens, and use dogs to hunt black bears.

Efforts to end animal cruelty by the USDA have been curtailed as well. In 2016, under the Obama Administration, the USDA issued 4,944 animal welfare citations, in two years the numbers dropped to just 1,716.

Keep Reading Show less
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less
via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less