By Maram Alabbasi
I am a girl I can’t travel anywhere to study; it is shameful according to my parents.
What about your brother?
No the situation differs.
How? What is the difference?
He is a boy and it is a pride if he goes to study abroad.
Women in Yemen are ruled and controlled by their parents and by the traditions of the society.
Recently, girls’ education has increased due to awareness and providing new schools for girls in different areas. Education, as a whole, in Yemen is still marginalized according to its budget to the total National Budget. Girls’ education in particular is more marginalized and underrated by the society. Some girls according to some civilized families in the Capital “don’t let their daughters finish their high school studies,” said Adnan Alqadasi, an employee. Some girls are blessed that they have finished high school and that they are allowed to study university.
Traveling abroad to study after finishing high school or after finishing university to prepare high studies is a dream that will never come true according to many girls such as Nora Ahmad. Women and girls in Yemen are prohibited from travelling alone even for studying. “The society prohibited that for no clear reasons,” Alqadasi commented.
This is a common complex that most Yemenis share, “daughters, sisters and women in general are not allowed to travel abroad and study, what are the people around us going to say if allowed them?” this statement is the most repeated sentence when talking about whether or not women are allowed to study abroad, women not men.
Yemeni girls, such as Nora, miss many chances because of this complex. “In my opinion, Many people don’t encourage sending their daughters for education abroad because of traditions,” Ghada Al-Wazeer, studied at Lebanon, said.
Nora scored 92 percent at high school and she could get a scholarship to any country to finish her university studies, but she didn’t dare to say that in front of her parents and brothers.
Scholarships, internships and training courses are skipped by Yemeni girls due to the refusal of their parents and brothers “girls don’t travel alone.”
“However, I strongly believe that if I studied in Yemen, my chances of learning were going to be little. Abroad, the educational system focuses more on practice. We had to work on real campaigns, real projects and events, along with the theoretical part,” Al-Wazeer explained.
Many say that the reason of refusing to let them go abroad is not because we mistrust them, but the community will not stop talking how open-minded this girl and family is, “open-minded” has a negative impression in the Yemeni community. “I think that many parents don’t trust their daughters. But when my family gave me the trust and sent me to Lebanon to continue my education, I made sure to learn as much as possible at university and outside, that’s why I used to volunteer in different places,” Al-Wazeer said.
Those who follow traditions are the best, even if those traditions don’t make sense. Reasons of the refusal are not referred to fear for these girls or for the mistrust, but rather to what people are going to say? “As a Yemeni female who studied abroad, I never felt that the society thinks I’m doing something wrong and many people encouraged me, especially my family, to be specific; my mother,” Al-Wazeer said.
Society views girls who study abroad as “open-minded and have been abroad ALONE!” Essam Al-Sulaihi reports that “the reasons for the family to do not accept are the customs and traditions and one way to understand this rejection is of course that some families think about their reputation as a priority,”
Mahmoud Bahkali states that “I keep myself on the women’s studying alone, but if they are with her husband the matter will be easier. But if what she wants to study is available in her own country she shouldn’t travel.”
Others may refer this issue to religion and that women are prohibited from traveling without “Mahram”, a male relative of the girl. Bahkali says that “in fact, I do not welcome studying abroad for women; the community’s view is a very negative look at our Yemeni girls who study abroad.” The most important reasons behind the attack and aggressive reactions on women studying abroad are religious,” according to Bahkali, “then comes the inhibitions and social habits.”
On the other hand, some families allow their daughters to travel and study abroad alone, “I do support sending my sister or my daughter, in the future, to study overseas, because of the good education that she is going to get and the job opportunities that she is going to find after she comes back plus she is going to learn more about how to survive in her life. I know good examples from my family who went to study overseas,” Essam Al-Sulaihi said.
So what are the reasons that some families might allow their daughters or sisters to study abroad, Al-Sulaihi points out that “regarding our society, I would say it depends on their level of education and their vision to the meaning of the girl high education.”
Alkadasi explains that “one important reference of Yemeni people is their traditions and a woman travelling abroad to study is a topic that definitely referred to as a shame in our society.”
The major difference between girls and boys in this regard is said to be that girls can’t live alone in a country which she knows nothing about but boys can do it magically. However Al-Wazeer had a different perspective “I believe studying abroad has helped me to become a responsible and independent person. I was also able to expand my Yemeni identity abroad; I talked to people from different cultural backgrounds about Yemen.”
This issue is not really much talked about due to its sensitivity in the Yemeni society. So what could be the dangers that a girl and not the boy may face abroad?
“I don’t think that there is any risk if the girl is going to a safe country to study,” Al-Sulaihi spoke, “if you really trust your sister wife then show them this trust by sending them to study.”
For Bahkali, the danger is that “the girl is inherently weak, and being alone in exile are so vulnerable to many threats.”
The benefits and outcomes of women who have studied abroad are seen as glorious and great by some members in the society. For Ghada, she talked about her experience saying that “being outside Yemen and living independently by myself helped me become who I am today. I met many people from different countries; I learned to become responsible and strong, away from religious and traditional restrictions.”