Fadumo Qasim Dayib is a social change activist, Somalia’s first female presidential candidate in 2016, a public health expert and development practitioner. She was a keynote speaker at the just concluded African Women In Dialogue (AfWID) conference in Johannesburg, South Africa. In this exclusive chat with The Guardian, she talked about the poor level of women’s participation in politics and a campaign fund she is pioneering to help African women that are aspiring for political offices, as well as her plan to visit Nigeria to seek Aliko Dangote and other philanthropists’ support. She also spoke about the upheavals in Somalia and more.
Do African women place gender above the agenda in politics?
I think the agenda that women represent is their gender. There is no way they can be in office without having gender as one of their agendas. They are in that space as minority representing the majority in their countries. It is essential for them to keep gender on the agenda so that they are able to tackle women’s issues. Representation across all classes of women is very important; hence women from all the spheres of society should be in politics. Unfortunately what we see on the continent with women in politics are those who come from a certain political and social class. Even within women themselves, there is that disparity in power.
It has been argued that politics is not decent on the continent, hence the poor participation of women, as they are not inclined to playing dirty games.
What is your take on this?
Most political meetings take place at night, which already puts the women at disadvantage. The time for these meetings is a way of dissuading the women from participating in politics. But if a woman must be in politics, she should be one that is able to handle anything that comes her way including attending meetings in the middle of the night just to be in that space. We need to change the perception about politics, and for that to happen, women must be in that space to purify it and also make sure we have people who actually care about the people that they represent. We need the women, youths and men who have strong principles and values; those who actually feel they can make a difference. When we have the critical mass, then we can change the perception. Unfortunately, these perceptions are true. The people who are currently seeking office are dubious characters.
There is this belief that women are their own worst enemies. Do you agree?
Women have had to survive, fight for everything including their lives. They tend to fight other women when there is even no reason to do that. When you are in a fight mood all the time, you are constantly fighting the people who are often around you- that is other women. Women experience a lot of traumatic experiences that comes across in the way we interact and relate with other women. If we have not reached the stage of healing and where we have come to accept ourselves for who we are, the self-hatred that we carry will constantly suffice. When you see another woman mistreating herself it’s because she hates herself. Successful women do not pull other women along, they have the ‘Queen-B’ syndrome, which means that once they reach the top, no other woman should also get there, instead, they criticize other women and give reasons why they should not be in the position. Women need to collectively heal together on the continent, and stop some of the barbaric things we do to the girl child, such as genital mutilation, early marriage. All these are part of the self-hatred. Women are surviving but not thriving.
Tell us about your campaign fund, ‘She Runs Africa’.
The campaign fund is to support African female politicians. This initiative came based on the experiences and challenges I had when I embarked on that presidential candidacy. I was convinced on the need to have a fund in place for this purpose. We need to have a support network for women who are aspiring to hold political offices, because we know that the female politicians on this continent lack financial resources to run campaigns. We want this to be an African-led, owned and funded campaign. I have plans to come to Nigeria to see Aliko Dangote; we believe he should be one of the funders, as well as all other African billionaires and philanthropists. It has been really difficult trying to get hold of Dangote through the Foundation, but we are not giving up.
During your presentation earlier, you said international communities were funding African societies to oppress and marginalise citizens. Can your tell us how?
In Somalia, the international community has been funding a system called the 4.5 Clan-based Power Sharing. For over 40 years, Somalians have not been able to vote democratically. We have clan elders who actually choose representatives of their clans in the parliaments and senate. And these senators are the ones who would select the president every four years. For 30 years, this is what the international community has been funding in the country. The 4.5 is a system that is highly oppressive, that subjugates women and youths because clans do not acknowledge women and youths. The four clans represent the clean people that are able to share power equally. There are also the .5s who are the marginalised and vulnerable clans, meaning, they are sub-humans. This is the only system in the world that continues to exist in this age, it is similar to the apartheid system, yet the international countries who puppet to have feminist foreign policies to achieve gender parity are willing to fund such a despicable system. They do this because as long as Somalia is in chaos and turmoil, they benefit extremely from its resources.
If the international community is paying for the demise of Somalia then we need to do something about it. As Pan-Africans, we need to take note of countries that Somalia has been in conflict with, and how the international community in the guise of development has sustained these conflicts. It is difficult for Somalia to gain prosperity and peace as long as it has a one per cent political elite that runs the affairs of the office not based on merit but based on the clan elders that they bribe. This is why you find very incompetent and unqualified politicians in Somalia. Somalis in the Diaspora are remitting around $1.5 to $2billion every year, which contributes to the formal economies of the country, that is triple the amount the international community is giving us as aid. This means we don’t actually need them, as we are remitting three times what they are giving us. They are actively silencing 51 per cent of Somalis, and I think it is time to put a stop to that.
What have other African countries done to help Somalia?
They did try by bringing in peacekeepers. Now, if your country is dictatorship and you are busy subjugating your own people, how are you coming to Somalia to provide peacekeeping and help it become a democratic state? Charity begins at home. Our African brothers and sisters are dying in Somalia as a result of peacekeeping mission, clearly, it is not working, and they need to change their tactics. They can assist with capacity building; they can transfer some of their skills to our government officials to be able to run affairs of the state that would be more beneficial to Somalia.