Women drivers hit the roads in Somalia



Mogadishu: Streets in the Somali capital have been "no-go" areas for women drivers for the past 22 years because of a ban imposed by Islamist militants on females from taking the driver's seat. But things have now changed.

Following the ouster of the Al Shabaab militant group from Mogadishu and its peripheries, and because of the growing stability in the seaside city, more women are hitting the roads in their cars, Xinhua reported.

Faisa Harun is a worker in a local non-governmental organisation in Mogadishu. She has been driving to work for the past few months, and says driving has been "liberating" for her and other women drivers.

"I am really pleased that I can now drive to work and go places in Mogadishu in my car. This is empowering us and enabling us to move around the city," Harun told Xinhua.

Somali women have always been able to drive and have not faced societal objections as women in some other countries do, but the outbreak of the civil war in 1991 and the lawlessness that followed made it impossible for them to drive safely.

The Al Shabaab, who until 2011 ruled much of southern and central Somalia including large swathes of the capital Mogadishu, banned women from driving.

But the fortunes of women drivers have changed, and the city is transforming as peace takes hold.

As the Somali capital starts to recover from years of lawlessness, streets are being lit with solar-powered lights and renovation work is being carried out. Traffic police are back on the roads to help the flow of the ever growing number of vehicles.

Aisha Dualeh, a young businesswomen, said that at first people were surprised to see women drivers and male motorists and pedestrians teased them, but things are slowly changing.

"For many who have not seen women behind the wheels for so long it has become a surprise to them and some even teased us on the road but Somali women are coming on board and taking their rightful place as equal partners with men in this country," Dualeh said, as she drove to her newly-opened shop in Mogadishu.

IANS