n Journal of Somali Studies : Research on Somalia and the Greater Horn of African Countries - The Old Men Who Hold Us Back : Clan Elders, Elite Bargaining and Exclusionary Politics

Volume 7, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 2056-5674
  • E-ISSN: 2056-5682



In 1962, Hawa Jibril, a poetess and a long-time activist for Somali women‟s rights and political participation, called on fellow women activists to oppose male elders who sought to exclude women from the governance of their country by engaging in activism. In her powerful poem, „the old men who hold us back‟ Hawa exhorted her fellow activists to not let the old men “prevail over us” (Jibril 2008:151). Sixty years later, Somali women continue their resistance against clan-based politics and elders who attempt to hold them back. This paper examines the effects of the political institutionalization of the clans and the ways that it challenges women‟s aspirations to participate in politics. This article is based on research carried out in Puntland (Garowe), Somaliland (Hargeisa and Bur‟o) and Mogadishu; Nairobi, Kenya; and Minneapolis, MN from 2016 - 2018. It asks the following questions: How has the 4.5 power-sharing agreement and the presence of clan elders as gatekeepers in the political system affected Somali women? And in what way have women responded to these obstacles? This research finds that despite the adoption of gender quota, the presence of clan elders and the 4.5 power-sharing agreement both pose significant barriers to women‟s inclusion in politics.

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