Somalia gets first female foreign minister

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For the first time in Somali history, a woman has been appointed foreign minister, the country’s Prime Minister Abdi Fareh Shirdon Saeid said on Sunday as he announced his new cabinet.

Fowsiyo Yusuf Haji Adan is to become the government’s foreign official.

“After long talks and negotiations, I have formed a government of 10 ministers, one of whom is a woman who will be Somalia’s first female foreign minister,” Saeid said upon announcing the names of his newly-appointed ministers.

Adan originally hails from Somaliland, a self-declared, yet internationally unrecognized, independent region in the north, and lived for a long time in Britain.

Upon her appointment, Adan noted that choosing a woman to be the foreign minister is a historic precedent that is bound to change the political scene in Somalia.

“This is a triumph for Somalia and Somali women. It heralds a new page in politics,” she said.

Adan, however, is not the only woman in the cabinet. Mariam Qassim Ahmed will be given the development and social affairs ministry.

Rights activist Amena Abdul Qader referred to Adan’s appointment as a political victory for Somali women.

“Men failed in previous governments and we have high hopes for this one,” she told Al Arabiya. “We also expect more political gains for women.”

Abdul Qader added that she hoped women would be at the head of more vital ministries like finance, education, health, and the interior.

“Men failed in all those important ministries before and working in them requires transparency and integrity which applies more to Somali women than their male counterparts,” she added.

Abdul Qader explained that for more than 20 years, men occupied all important positions and the result was rampant corruption and the squandering of state money.

Since the collapse of the central government in Somalia in the early 1990s, Somali women were fully in charge of their families with men either unemployed or at war. To support their families, Somali women worked in trade and other menial jobs men refused to take.

The Somali parliament is to approve the new cabinet as a final step after which it is to start its official duties.