In Somalia enrolments of women in higher education have twofold and more than thirty percent of students are women, but there is still unequal distribution across disciplines with few women in non-traditional fields such as engineering. Many are in traditional professions which are considered to be an extension of the natural roles of wife and mother; i.e. teaching (which is particularly favored because it offers gender segregation in the work place), nursing and clerical work.
This overview of the participation of women in higher education shows that women are benefitting from the expansion of educational opportunity and in some countries, while others are not. However there is no equal and full participation, Cultural and economic barriers remain in our country. Cultural attitudes, values and stereotypes disadvantage girls both in gaining access to formal education and enjoying the same range of educational opportunity offered to boys. At the level of higher education women tend to cluster in areas of study which lead to traditional female careers.
Somali Women carry a dual burden that they must pursue both their academic interest while meeting traditional obligations, for which they get little or no help from their male partners and spouses. A Somali academic woman is concerned with childbearing and rearing, cooking and domestic household chores and their supervision. Factors responsible for this low participation of women in top rank lectureship positions are connected with the struggle to keep the home and function maximally on their jobs. at the same time; Somali female lecturers are subjected to greater work-related pressures than their male counterparts. Teaching in the University itself is a very high-pressure job.
Challenges for Somali women in academics
- Work stress does have a home-work interface connection, in the findings of Adeoye, (1992), Durosaro, (1995), they indicated that the dual role of women in academics as wives/mothers as well as lecturers was a source of stress.
- Participation in conferences and seminars which are necessary complements and supplements for a successful academic career maybe out of the question if the timing is very inconvenient for the women due to “primary responsibilities.”
- There is the need to answer the question of why Somali women are not as many as men in academics? This is a serious challenge because Somali women lecturers perceive themselves as a minority group in a male dominated environment. Although an increasing number of women have entered academics, yet they are few in higher ranks. Women Deans and Professors are a minority group and women Vice- Chancellors are rare.
- Lack of networks can be seen as another challenge of Somali women in academics. Unlike the male academic staff that seems to be able to use unofficial networks to learn from colleagues, women in equal need of such support are more likely to miss out on information sharing and informal mutual help from within their institutions, since they are in the minority in most departments. The absence of a supportive network among women academics whether official or unofficial fragments their efforts and contributions towards the women’s cause.
- There are lots of constraints being faced by Somali women in the academic profession. The academic profession requires large investments of time and energy. You either perform or you are out.
- There is also perception of women believe that this job is not suitable for them because of Low salary, more energy and that is why seeking for other jobs instead of lecturing higher institutions.
- There is a need to provide a healthy work environment that can protect the employee mentally and physically especially for Somali female lecturer.
- Lack of a strong research record and lack of a tenured position are cited as factors which contribute to the clustering of Somali female academic staff at the lower levels of the academic hierarchy.
Benefits for female lecturer in higher education
There are many opportunities for women in higher education include the following
- Teaching is not merely a job for Women; rather it is a process to give knowledge to the students. It is not only to impart education, but also to inspire, help students, get a perspective of their life and bring about a change, and guide them in achieving success in their future; that we have been able to do so for our Somali community.
- It is a new experience for Somali women, you are learning while sharing with students. The classes are fun-filled — the students share jokes to make class light. You also listen to them and try to understand their viewpoints — it has helped us to understand each other well, making the teaching-learning process effective.
- Teaching gives confidence and reputation.
- Lecturing is a capacity building to Somali female lectures, you are learning every day because you are searching and preparing notes to your students, sharing ideas and discussing each other is also crucial to your knowledge.
- Face the facts and accept them, Somali Women must be realistic and come to terms with the fact that natural and biological roles in life such as marriage and child bearing and the upbringing of the children moderate their jobs and careers, placing them second in the scheme of things. Accepting this fact mentally makes it easier to cope with the probability that the man she graduated with, or even before, could likely become a manager, director or professor long before her.
- Women must be Proactive and based on Values not based on conditions such as low salary and heavy work because experience and knowledge is more important than Money and many more others.
- Somali women needs to provide special programs for women, special training programs are needed to ensure that women are well-equipped to handle technical aspects of the job.
- in order to promote the increased participation of women in higher education management, specific policies and measures should be considered to overcome traditional stereotypes and preconceived social ideas about women, and to improve women’s status in society as a whole, i.e. to change her subordinate position and make her fully equal to man without discrimination of any kind. In this respect, social, economic, political and legal changes are needed.
- I recommend changing women’s self image, this inferior status of women becomes difficult to improve when women themselves are convinced of their limited potential and tend to follow traditional patterns and social expectations.
Samsam Said Mohamed
Lecturer at Puntland State University (PSU) – Garowe, and Policy Aide Officer, Ministry of Women Development and Family Affairs (MoWDAFA)