Political Analysis

Women and Youth Left Behind

National Yemen

Amatalalim al-Soswa

Violence, injustice, and conflict control the country and women and youth are absent.

By Asma al-Mohattwari

The National Dialogue Conference outputs gave women some rights on paper, and most NGOs and institutions have started to support those rights and have held workshops, training courses, and conferences to teach women and youth their rights. Yet this was for a specific period. Now, women and youth are completely absent from the political process.

Bushra al-Amari, the head of Media for Advocating Women’s Issues Network (MAWIN), said that in the light of the current conflict and the unstable situation in Yemen, she doubt that the NDC outputs are still on the negotiating table and all the attempts and parties negotiating are males and elderly men, while women and youth today are completely overshadowed.

Al-Amari believes that the situation will get worse for women in the coming period because Yemenis are seeing an absence of women in all committees in the country, even in revolutionary, political, national, and partisan committees.

“In contrast, international organizations and agencies are rushing today for a political settlement between the warring parties without taking into account their promises for the involvement of women and youth. It was just slogans and when the time has come, the NGOs abandoned them,” she added.

Maliha al-Asadi, a poet and member of Wojoh Foundation for Media and Development, said that women and youth representation including at least 30% for women is mandatory.

Al-Asadi added that resigned president Hadi, leaders of parties, and the UN envoy made violence and weapons dominant in the general scene. “We accuse party leaders on the one hand and those in charge of Ansar Allah on the other hand. It became clear they were heading to the full exclusion of women.”

According to her, events accelerated in Yemen and made it difficult to comprehend, but the most important thing now is the presence of this ratio in the document of the NDC.

Amatalalim al-Soswa, an activist, said that the participation of women in decision-making positions is still weak because there is a gap between the concept of women’s participation, popular female acceptance of it, and politicians’ misunderstanding of it. Al-Soswa said that 30% of women participation is not an aim but a mean to access the promotion of women’s 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 who can prove their presence through all the difficulties they 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 branches.

“Some political parties still have a narrow view for the women’s issues and consider them a personal issue; the new stage could make Yemen live in peace and equality between both males and females.”

Amal al-Makhathi, Executive Director of the Yemeni Center for Human Rights, said that parties have circumvented the rights of women in all stages. Parties differ in everything, but against women’s rights they all agree. “I expected that even in the coming stage, Ansar Allah will not allow women to participate in the national council with 30%. There must be a strong movement by women. They should stop being silent and staying at home in order to be partners.”

From the beginning of the humanity, women have suffered unequal and unfair treatment. Some of this treatment can be traced back to the earliest stories of the world’s religions. Everyone knows the story of Adam and Eve, the first two human beings that God created to live in a paradise on earth. Some religious figures—many of them male—believe that Eve was responsible for Adam’s eating from the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden. As a result, Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden and in their punishments were created all of the suffering and injustice in the world we now inhabit. The Qur’an, however, places equal blame on both Adam and Eve for their mistake. Nowhere in the Qur’an can one find even the slightest hint that Eve tempted Adam to eat from the tree, or even that she had eaten before him. Eve in the Qur’an is no temptress, no seducer, and no deceiver. God, according to the Qur’an, punishes no one for another’s faults. Adam and Eve committed equal sins and then asked God for forgiveness; He forgave them both.

The issue of women’s rights has been addressed by humans for a long time without ever achieving a satisfactory solution. Before Islam, women were held accountable for many negative events, and they had no rights within their societies. According to the traditional Islamic narrative, women in Pre-Islamic Arabia had almost no rights. They were not considered equal to men and were thus dictated under a strict patrilineal system. They were viewed as objects and constantly humiliated. Women had very little control over their marriages and could not inherit property. In the family, their purpose was no more to bear children, even though they had no rights to these children once they were born. When a woman gave birth to a female, it was considered a disgrace to the family. Female infanticide was a common practice.

“We are the most important part in saving the nation and I always say that when women disappear from the top of any society, violence, injustice, conflict and wars are always the alternative.  We have to remember that in the biggest countries in the world with the strongest economies, women are heading their governments. I think that Yemen will not see stability and growth if women and youth don’t take their real role,” said al-Amari.