Political Analysis

Yemeni Women: More Struggle to Reach the fair representation by 30%

National Yemen

photo from archive noble peace prize winner Tawakal Karman

Asma al-Mohattwari

One of the most important issues women discussed in the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) was to give the women the right of quota system, which is 30% female participation in the political positions of all institutions. Unfortunately, this was not true of the NDC, which only had 26% participation by women, which is still a positive step.

Until now, women have not achieved the quota in any institution and outside of the NDC, there are only three women ministers out of the thirty-five that exist. There is one woman out of 301 parliamentarians, and it is likely that many women will stand by their parties and vote against women’s rights. Many women prefer to pursue empowerment through civil society rather than institutional politics.

Amatalalim al-Soswa, activist and NDC member, said that the participation of women in the decision-making positions is still weak because there is a gap between the concept of women’s participation, popular female acceptance of it, and the politicians misunderstanding of women’s participation. Al-Soswa said that 30% of women participation is not an aim but a mean to access the promotion of the women participation on fair and equitable terms according to their performance and ability.

“We don’t want women to participate as a view; we want women with efficient ability and can prove their presence through all the difficulties she may have.”

Al-Soswa said that the 30% quota would be a major victory, and that additional constitutional laws defining it are necessary in order to legalize it in the judiciary and executive branch.

“Some political parties still have a narrow view for the women’s issue and consider it as a personal issue, I wish the NDC outputs could make Yemen live in peace and fair between both male and female.”

Women’s representation in decision-making is still limited as they lack equal representation in governments, representative institutions such as parliaments and local government, as well as the weakness of her participation in the power executive. Not only that, but women are also limited in their representation in civil society and political parties.

The chairwomen of al-Shqaeq Forum and a member of the NDC Amal al-Basha said that a fair representation of women of at least 30% as an initial step is the basis for the development and advancement of society.

“When we exclude women, we are removing a very important part of human resources and the community will lose a big part of its resources.” In another side, al-Basha said that women themselves have to represent women’s needs and requirements, which cannot be accounted for if they are only represented by men. “There are things belonging to the family, society and women themselves that must be represented by women, and women’s participation is the basis of building a modern state.”

Women were happy with their participation in the NDC but after its end, their happiness went with it. The first decision after the end of the NDC was to determine the members of the Determining Regions Commission, but most of the members were men and no quota was achieved. Only two women were appointed.

Arwa Othman, activist and NDC member, said that women did not have equal participation.

“I wonder where all the efficient women who participated in the NDC are, they should be protesting against this decision.”

Saher Ghanem, activist and NDC member, said that it was not the fault of those who formed the commission. Rather, it was the fault of the parties who always presented men rather than giving the women the chance they’ve earned.

“So women in the parties have to prove themselves, and there should be a pressure on the Presidency to empower women since the presidency is the first thing that can enable women to achieve their 30%.”

Nasim al-Feel, researcher, took a contrary stand, saying that that the imposition of a certain percentage of women participation is an insult for their capabilities and works against the principle of equal opportunity because it gives rights to women depending on gender rather than ability. Al-Feel noted that the adoption of quota may adversely affect women’s struggle towards dramatically improving and strengthen their political participation in the future.

“Women empowerment cannot be done solely by the reformation of societal, moral, educational, and foundational means. We must be more comprehensive in order to give women their confidence to ensure it.”