Bushra Nasr
Last updated: 23 November, 2014

“Even the political elements of the NDC who represented liberals couldn’t accept the presence of women”

Yemeni women are burdened with tremendous problems and difficulties rooted deep in the culture. They face challenges such as illiteracy, improper access to education and health, early marriages, etc. This is besides being socially marginalized and absent from the three branches of authority in the country: regulatory or legislative, executive and judicial. Yemen was placed at the very bottom on gender equality according to The Global Gender Gap Report 2013 of World Economic Forum.

However, and paradoxically, in a conservative society like Yemen, this was not the scene during the peaceful revolution of 2011. Women played a major role in this decisive moment of change of the long stagnant political environment. They could be seen extensively out in the streets leading the front rows of the demonstrations, actively participating in the medical treatment in the field and in emergency wards in hospitals, and disseminating awareness about the revolution in various media centers, both locally and internationally.

WOMEN ALSO participated actively in leading and coordinating revolutionary activities in the hope that this was the chance they had been waiting for to really shape the future for women and the future generations of all Yemenis.

“Women played a major role in this decisive moment of change”
Yemeni women were seen by the international media as being far different from the uncultured and marginalized pathetic image which was fostered by the repressive regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh. Even today, women have not ceased to play a pivotal role in insisting that Yemen must transform into a modern society. Our country can look with pride at the continuous efforts of feminine revolutionary leaders who have been acknowledged by the international community and as exemplified by the honors bestowed on leaders such as Tawakol Karman (Noble Peace Prize laureate for 2011), Amal Al Basha, Arwa Othman, Bushra Al Maqatary, Atyaf Al Wazir, and many more.

Women continue in the battle to find a recognized place and standing for their voice and meaningful answers to their needs. Their chance to air their voices and demands was further enhanced by the 30% quota they were allotted in the National Dialogue Conference NDC, which was held from March 2013 to February 2014.

HOWEVER, this percentage was only strongly enforced by the international community which sponsored the dialogue during that time, not the government. Women continued to be relentless in demanding concrete changes in Yemeni society. It is a pathetic and tragic irony that the role of women in the revolution that brought these elements to power again has been forgotten and sadly it requires the international community to ensure that women’s participation is given its due weight and influence in shaping the future of Yemen.

Even the political elements of the NDC who represented liberals couldn’t accept the presence of women on the ground and succumbed to the pressures of die hard religious conservatism and tribal hegemony. Notwithstanding this, the NDC proved that women will always represent the beaming beacon of an enlightened Yemen destined for great change.

Yemeni women have learned that it is possible to rise and shout for the rights of women in particular, and of all Yemenis in general. Women in Yemen will not cease the tide from rolling towards achieving all these rights. The winds of change are blowing in Yemen and it is Yemeni women, who will make sure that these winds shall gather to cataclysmic storms, if legitimate rights of women in Yemen are not adhered to and applied. 

For Yemeni women, it will not be enough to see laws and constitutions speak for them. They want the stipulations guaranteeing women’s rights manifested as genuine facts on the ground. I see that they are the essential drivers for change.