Showing what women can do, and making it happen

Students, faculty and guests had the pleasure of hearing Asha Hagi Elmi Amin speak Oct. 8 at 11:30 a.m. in SC 213A. Amin, a Somali woman and one of the world’s foremost experts on peace building, addressed a group of approximately 70.

Like many Somali women, Amin’s marriage arrangement required her to leave her family and clan to live among her husband’s, an adjustment she described as extremely difficult. “My husband and I had very different identities even though we came from the same village, the same school and the same university,” Amin said.

Somalia, which has been embroiled in civil war for the last nineteen years, has seen its clans influenced and divided by contentious politicians. With mistrust and hostility between clans,  Amin and women in her situation found themselves rejected by both the clan of their birth and the clan of their marriage.

In the war-torn African country, women who previously had no influence in the peace talks have been forced to take on the roles of husbands and fathers who have been killed.

“Women and children are the first and last victims of war, but without decision-making power,” said Amin. “I found the courage to speak out for thousands of Somali women with the same pain.”

In 2000, Amin led women in organizing The Sixth Clan, the first organization to cross Somali clan lines. The women of the clan represented diverse political perspectives and socioeconomic backgrounds but shared a common commitment to peace.

At the time, all previous peace talks had been conducted by “men with the power of the gun,” says Amin. Women and “the power of civil society” were traditionally excluded, according to Amin. Among other objectives, The Sixth Clan intended to get women into parliament, so they demonstrated in front of the tent where the thirteenth peace conference was taking place.

“The women elected me to the honor of representing them in the peace talks. On the first day, during the first hour, I requested a women’s quota.” The men agreed to allow the submission of one name to represent Somali women in parliament. Amin protested, “Mr. Chairman, no. We are equal. Five. No more, no less.”

“For women to make a difference,” said Amin, they “need to articulate an agenda. No agenda? Don’t waste your time. Without an agenda men will swallow you.”

The demand was granted, women claimed 50 percent of the parliament chairs and Amin was elected vice chair of the peace conference committee. “We showed what women can do. We made it happen” said Amin.

The Sixth Clan now serves as a model for women across Africa and all over the world in participating in the peace building process. Amin advises women desiring to change social paradigms, “Don’t do what men expect. Do something new.”

The Peace and Justice Studies program sponsored Amin’s appearance at UVU. For more information concerning the Peace and Justice Studies minor or Integrated Studies emphasis, contact Dr. Michael Minch at mminch@uvu.edu or 801-863-7482.

Visit www.ashahagimission.com/publication.php for more information on the peace process in Somalia.

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