Fawzia Yusuf Adam, the Somali woman running for president

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A lawmaker in Somalia who became the country's first female foreign minister is now running for the presidency.

Fawzia Yusuf H. Adam is well aware of the challenges in winning votes in a conservative Muslim nation where women have been historically marginalised.

Even friends and colleagues see her chances as next to nil because of her gender.

But Adam, a widow and mother of three, said she believes her campaign for the presidency is worthwhile and could break down barriers for other women.

She argues that her gender could be an asset in helping Somalia to emerge from years of deadly violence, marked by devastating attacks from the al-Qaeda linked al-Shabab extremist group.

"I thought as a woman, maybe this country needs the leadership of a woman to bring peace and stability," she told The Associated Press in an interview in July.

"There was mayhem in this country for the past 30 years," she said. "Young people are dying like flies, killing each other, exploding themselves, killing other people."

Like others across Somalia, she has watched as insecurity weakened the country's foundations.

High unemployment, poor education and one of the world's most poorly-equipped health systems are all a result. Corruption and political squabbling haven't helped.

Adam's presidential campaign has been relatively low-profile because of the insecurity and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unlike many other candidates and ordinary people in Somalia, where face masks are hardly seen despite having one of the highest COVID-19 fatality rates in Africa, Adam says she takes the pandemic seriously.

Women in Somalia have been especially hard hit by the virus, Adam said, particularly the poorest people in society.

Among the women Adam hopes to help if elected president is Fatuma Mohamed, one of the hundreds of thousands of people living in camps in the capital Mogadishu after being displaced by insecurity or drought.

Mohamed said her husband died of COVID-19. Now she struggles to raise two young children, earning money by doing laundry when she can.

"I have not seen anyone offering me a helping hand. I struggle all alone," she said.

Adam's path in life has been far different. Married to a general, she first entered politics in her hometown of Hargeisa in Somaliland years ago but fled to Mogadishu, saying local politicians saw her as a threat.

She later started a political party, the National Democratic Party, and rose to some of the country's highest offices, including foreign minister and deputy prime minister.

Now, as Somalia moves towards a long-delayed presidential election, which has now been scheduled for October she has her sights on the highest office of all.

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