The Impact of Civil War and State Collapse on the Roles of Somali Women: A Blessing in Disguise


Ingiriis, Mohamed H., and Markus V. Hoehne. 2013. “The Impact of Civil War and State Collapse on the Roles of Somali Women: A Blessing in Disguise.” Journal of Eastern African Studies 7 (2): 314–33. doi:10.1080/17531055.2013.776281.

Authors: Mohamed H. Ingiriis, Markus V. Hoehne


Somali society can be characterized as patriarchal ‘to the bone’. Despite tremendous political and economic changes in the 20th century, and from colonial to post-colonial rule, the situation of women changed only minimally. In fact, some authors argue that women enjoyed even less independence from male ‘wards’ during the democratic and later revolutionary governments from 1960 to 1991 that were promulgating modernization and gender equality, at least rhetorically. Paradoxically, the most substantial changes regarding gender relations that led to a considerable empowerment of women in the social, economic and political sphere were triggered by the tragedy of civil war and state collapse. Women had to bear the brunt of the fighting. But they also became actively involved in armed conflict as combatants, motivators of their men and also as peace-makers. Women also took over more economic responsibilities and fought their way into politics. This article traces the challenges and opportunities that the civil war and the collapse of the state provided for women, arguing that the Somali tragedy provided a blessing in disguise at least for some women who gained social, economic and political power. Still, what we are observing is not a revolution but at best an incidental ‘reform’. If this will eventually lead to more just gender relations in the long run remains to be seen.

Keywords: women, civil war, social change, Somalia

Topics: Armed Conflict, Civil Wars, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations Regions: Africa, East Africa Countries: Somalia

Year: 2013

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