Asha Ahmed Abdalla
is campaigning for the presidency at the conference. (Photographs: AP)
When Asha Ahmed Abdalla
was a teenager in her
native country of Somalia, she
used to daydream about what it would be like to be Somalia's first lady, and decided to set her
sights on achieving that goal.
grew up and her
dream evolved.After years of humanitarian and political activity, the 45-year-old mother of three has set her
eyes on the ultimate prize: to become Africa's first woman president.
"Women should use their power," she
says."I've always loved politics.I love to fight for people's freedom.Also, I like equality, especially women's equality."
These days Abdalla
is campaigning for the presidency at the Somalia National Reconciliation Conference, a peace process that has been going on in Kenya for the past year.
...Abdalla is currently the TNG's Minister of Demobilisation, Disarmament and Reintegration.She
has some stiff competition in her
bid to become president.
But the energetic and enthusiastic Abdalla
- whose campaign slogan is "Give Somalia a Mother's Nurturing!"- is not worried about her
heavyweight rivals or the fact that she's
the only woman running in a society that has traditionally shunned her
sex from the political arena.
"[The decision to run] came from my friends," she
says, adding that during her
term in office, she
acquired the reputation of being tough but fair-minded and law-abiding."If I become president, I will bring law and order back, and things will [go] back to normal."She
has come up with a "12 point agenda" that commits her
to taking action on issues including disarmament, rehabilitation, judicial reform, health care, regional governance, economic revival, universal education, employment creation, and, of course, women's empowerment.Abdalla
was born in 1958 in Ergavo, a city on the tip of Somalia stretching into the Gulf of Aden.She
early childhood in Yemen and returned to Somalia in the late 1960s.
At about that time Abdalla's uncle was running for Parliament.His
young niece, who helped him manage his
campaign, was impressed by the flurry of activity, attention and discussions on issues.It was then that her
political ambitions were born.
A decade later, while attending Latole University
in Mogadishu, the student was caught up with the causes and effects of the Ogaden War, a bloody conflict between Somalia and Ethiopia.She
people suffering and got into heated discussions and debates about how to stop the war and help its victims.
It was also during this time Abdalla
future husband.They married and emigrated to the US.There she
led a life packed with educational and humanitarian achievements that included a BSc from La Guardia College
in New York; a master's from the City University of New York; and the chairmanship of the Washington-based Somali Relief Agency
, which also dealt with Somali refugees' welfare in the US.
In 2000 Abdalla
- who by this time also had US citizenship - was persuaded to attend the Arta conference where, because of her
pivotal role, she
was elected an MP in the TNG
and was later given a portfolio. She
hasn't looked back since, even though during the course of her
has received several death threats from those angry at her
family - particularly her
father, who died last year - for who she
taught me to be honest, to be straightforward, to believe what I believe and to work with others for good things. [He taught me] never do what somebody else tells you to do if it's not right."She
urges women to recognise their rights and to fight for them.