Job advert with a tag line *WOMEN NEED NOT APPLY*
Girls are sent to school when at the primary level, however, only 10% of that number continues to secondary school and graduate. Furthermore, only 10% of female secondary school graduates continue to the university level and graduate with a Somali degree which is entirely different from any other degree anywhere else in terms of quality. Unfortunately only 10% of female degree holders find employment. I estimated the numbers, however they are still completely shocking and disappointing but the reality might be even worse, and they are one of the reasons why girls leave school at the primary level. Employment is a privilege enjoyed by very little females in the community.
Women are the backbone of every society, especially in Somalia in which they played a very important role in the post civil war recovery and managed to do simple trade to feed their children and sometimes if finances allow they sent them to school. Furthermore, they were able to facilitate the peace-keeping activities mediating between clans because of intermarriages whereby women belong to more than one clan for instance, her clan, her husband and children’s clan, and her daughter’s husband’s clans if they are married. They have the ability to facilitate smooth interactions in the complex clan system of Somalia.
Despite all that, women face difficulty getting an employment with their education and qualifications. Most of the job adverts have a tendency to favor men, even sometimes in places like international NGOs and Humanitarian Aid organizations.
I remember an incident that happened to me back in 2005 whereby I applied to a local telecommunication company after graduating top of the class from an information technology college, however, the company declined my application citing the fact that their rules and regulations does not allow hiring female office workers, but I heard that they employ females only as tea makers and cleaners. What is so threatening to the company about having female officers? It seems to be the simple fact of acknowledging women’s equality that’s repulsive to these men. Surprisingly, most of their customers are female small trade business owners who have SMS banking accounts with them.
Some universities also refuse to hire female lecturers because they believe women are not qualified to teach men despite the fact that they are the ones carried them for 9 months, taking care of all their dietary needs before they were even born, and continued to teach them the primary education from infancy until they were able to walk, talk, and feed themselves. They were the nurses, doctors, and teachers for them when they were babies but suddenly growing up meant they couldn’t accept receiving education from them despite their qualifications. How weird and revolting!
The latest incident that made me write this post was a job post I applied recently. I simply responded to a job advert for a logistics officer at an international NGO. Firstly, reading through the advert I realized the term “He” was used to refer to the applicant in every sentence except one time that “He/She” was written. Honestly, I thought it was out of neglect and the intention was really not to discriminate and shun away female qualified candidates. But to my surprise, one of my friends who worked there informed me that they actually intended the position for a man and the HR person (who, by the way, was an international staff and not even Somali national) did not think a woman can handle the responsibilities of the position. She constantly pleaded to him to include female candidates, and informed him that, other organizations such as the WFP which in fact does a lot of export/import tasks has a female logistics officer. It did not change his mind one bit, and he shortlisted only male candidates for the interview. And this person is employed in an organization that believes in gender equality and upholds achieving the MDGs.
This further proves that the gender stereotyping and inequality is a global issue rather than local practices. While some countries have achieved some level of equality, yet the issue remains. I was recently watching an interview with Silicon Valley ladies (I am tech savvy) who were trying to prove that women do belong in technology, were discussing the fact that in the western countries, women have yet to achieve equal membership to board membership. But for Africa, it’s the simple act of getting an employment that you are qualified for, and simply being treated as equal is the immediate goal.
Unless men accept the fact that men and women are equal, different but equal, not same but equal, we will keep having gender inequality and gender stereotyping.
To not completely sway to the pessimism side, I do believe it certainly will be achieved, but it’s just a matter of when. I read through the “Men as Allies” posts and my face lit up with excitement and enthusiasm about the close proximity of reaching the gender equality goal. I interact with my co-workers and discuss with them these matters, and realize that they are our allies. I read through the World Pulse articles and I see strong women who are working together to make sure equality is achieved across the globe. And I am here to march with this community, to give voice to the silent women, to speak for the unspoken for, and to do whatever is in my power to facilitate achieving equality.