During the Arab Spring, Yemeni women appeared strongly on the media as leaders and an essential part of the Yemeni revolution in 2011. The Yemeni woman has been able to achieve many successes, beginning with her great presence in the popular demonstrations in Change Squares that were formed to demand regime change. Women played a central role in the reforms that have taken place in Yemen during the past three years, and have achieved a strong presence in the revolutionary and media scene.
Yemeni women’s struggle to gain their rights cannot be confined to the past three years. Its roots back to the early sixties, when Yemeni women participated in the struggle against colonialism. They led demonstrations and contributed to the mobilization of public opinion.
During the past three decades, Yemeni women were able to achieve several gains that culminated with their active role in the movement for peaceful change in 2011. Women concluded the march of success with almost 30% of representation in the National Dialogue Conference (NDC.) These figures are unprecedented, and women precided over three important work groups in the NDC which are Sa’ada issue, rights and freedoms issue and good governance.
Today, Yemeni women stand on the threshold of a new and important stage where they are part of the new Yemeni constitutional foundations. It is a stage that they should put all their strength and efforts towards building in order to express the hopes and aspirations of the Yemeni people. Although women in the NDC faced some difficulties, they have been able to impose a number of laws on women’s rights in political participation and many other issues.
Shatha al-Harazi, activist and NDC member, said that the NDC was a very good platform for women to be equal with men and to practice leadership roles.
“Women in the NDC proved that their performance was more efficient than men because they are still new in the political work, and did their duties in freedom. This was unlike men, who are used to spending their time in Qat rooms.”
For her part, Amira al-Arasi, NDC member, said that men in the NDC were impressed.
“Through the NDC, women could prove, for those who underestimate the ability of women, that women are not easy and they are like mountains. No one can destroy them.”
Regarding the women issues in the NDC, not all the components agreed on and women found some difficulties with some parties in defending women rights. Al-Harazi said that when discussing women’s issues, two kinds of thoughts are found: traditional and liberal thinking.
Traditional thinking is based on a false understanding of the religion, customs and traditions. It always takes a position that is against the women and its speech is the most popular on the street. Liberal thinking, on the other hand, always stands with women.
“The religious movements in the NDC differ in everything and agree against women’s issues, but in the end the civil groups were able to extract many rights for women. We are just waiting for these rights to become legislation and included in the constitution, and I’m sure that the Yemeni constitution will be one of the most progressive constitutions.”
Al-Arasi said that the most two issues that were rejected by some religious parties were the quota system and determining the age of girls marriage. However, women in the NDC struggled to ensure that these two issues were in the NDC outputs.
“Now the role of NDC women is to make women aware of their rights, so that in the day of the referendum the citizens know what they are seeking.”
Dr. Entlaq al-Motakel, NDC member, said that the rights are taken not given. Any earnings added to women’s conditions are because they are the fruits of the continued struggle.
“I really was surprised when we sometimes found some women who are against women’s rights only because men in their parties don’t agree on those rights, using religion to reject them. Islam is a religion of justice, fairness and does not accept the damage of women.”
According to al-Motakel the worst types of damage and violence is the early marriage because it deprives the girl of her right to childhood and education. This causes social, health and psychological repercausions that are out of her hands to fully confront.
“From this point, I see the adoption of the determine the age of marriage as the most important decisions against violence towards women. Certainly there will be many wonderful decisions followed-up by NDC members that I hope that will be implemented and put to a mechanism that ensures their survival and adherence.”
Al-Arasi noted that the situation of Yemeni woman improved a lot after the 2011 revolution and the NDC came to highlight the political role of women.
“I am so sad that the whole world is celebrating International Women’s Day and the ability of women in their countries to get all their rights and become equal with her partner, the man, but in Yemen, we are celebrating this day while the woman still try to get rid of male superiority. I hope in the near future that the women’s situation will be better than the women in the developed countries.”