By Asma Zaid Al-mohattwari and Basma Mutahar
Islam has given women great care, honor and respect. Unlike Islam, women in the ancient civilization were not able to receive such things. Islam enabled women to reach a position which had never been reached before.
Although, Yemeni women still lack the knowledge of her rights, it cannot be said that the women’s position here is not getting better. The circumstances and living conditions of women in Yemen are developing gradually.
In light of the upcoming conference for women rights, National Yemen investigated in past and future of Yemeni women for the last ten years by asking: What has changed? Do women remain as they were ten years ago? These, and other questions, were the answered by the Head of the Yemen Women Union Ramzia Al-Eriani in a recent meeting with National Yemen.
According to her, there is no big difference between the status of women now and the last ten years ago. The only difference is in the modification in legislation for women, especially related to personal status.
“There are 22 laws that have been modified for the benefit of woman and one of these laws is related to a women’s right to give her nationality to her children as her husband does,” Al-Eriani said.
One of the most important women’s rights is education. Women should have the right to education in order to improve their role in building society. Unfortunately, the illiteracy ratio of women in Yemen is as high as 60% and his risen by 5% in the last ten years Al-Eriani said.
“The awareness of the women rights is still low. That is not only because of illiteracy, but also because the ignorance of the educated women regarding their rights,” Al-Eriani stated.
Interestingly, women in decision-making positions have risen to 30%. Most of them are leaders in the fields of economics and development and other fields. Because of this, women were able to introduce women’s rights, which helped raise awareness of the rights of women. “Women’s rights has achieved higher awareness during the recent period, and the personal status legislation modification was the most important change,” Al-Eriani added.
She claimed that the Yemeni legislations of women are some of the best in the Arab world. “At the Arab University Meeting in 2010, the Yemen Women Union presented a symposium that discussed all of the Arab legislations related to women. What was discovered in the presentation is that Yemen laws for women are some of the best in the Arab world. However, there is a large gap between legislations and implementation for these laws.”
Al-Eriani said that there must be equity between men and women in Yemen’s laws and constitution. “For example it is not fair to have a legal clause in the constitution stating that the percentage of the women positive distinction is 30% as some women cried aloud. Al-Eriani considered it an illegal clause because the constitution is continues and not temporary. For that, there should be a complete equality and she would not accept to be less.
Additionally, the percentage of women in the parliament does not reflect the total women population in Yemen. The different parties in Yemen are the reason behind this contrast. “Independent female nominees do not get any support and some parties do not agree to nominate any women at all. While some women who belong to parties are being nominated in governmental institutions, it is well known that they are going to fail,” she added. Al-Eriani stated that some believe that women are just used to increase the amount of votes for a political party.
The presidential decree that makes a distinction between men and women is an example the problem of appointing women in governmental councils. There are only two women in Shura council because when prominent men retire, they are transferred to the Shura council. Unlike men, women find themselves at home after retirement. Al-Eriani considered this as a distinction against women. “We discussed this case with the presidency, prime minister, and parliament but they did not show any response.”
The same problem happens with appointing women in ministries. In the new government, two women have portfolios, and the third one is a minister without a portfolio. Al-Eriani said “this is not enough, there should be three women ministers from the GPC and three women ministers from the JMP if there is going to be real involvement of women in political life.”
According to Al-Eriani, women practice their democratic rights the same as men. They participated in elections and their voices exceeded the voice of men. Also, they bravely participated in the revolution, although they faced many difficulties and attacks.
Al-Eriani declared that there are two ways for women to flourish in Yemen’s future. The first way became known after a survey conducted by the Yemen Women’s Union. The survey sampled educated, uneducated, mid-educated, and leaders women and asked them about their needs and demands. One of the most important demands identified was peace and stability and that the conflict of parties and tribes must end. The second demand identified amongst women was that women in rural areas need to be supported because women in villages still lack the simple rights which Islam gave her. Al-Eriani said that women are still suffering injustice in the society.
“They work for 12 hours a day in their field, but they receive no reward,” she said.
Also, though constitution states that women are required to have a safe motherhood and childhood, there is also a great lack of health centers in the rural areas and in the case there are, people cannot afford their costs. Accordingly, the Yemen Women’s Union asked that health centers provide free services.
For Al-Eriani, the most significant demand for the educated class is involve women in the dialogue committees. “We don’t find much women involvement and if there is, it is only for two or three women. It should in fact involve women from all spectrums of Yemen’s society,” she suggested.
Also in a move that would pave a second way for women to move forward in Yemen was the declaration of the Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Basindwa that the next prime minister might be a woman. This statement gave the Yemeni women great optimism. Such a move would return Yemen to its great history of Sheba and the Asulayhian age.
“Women should neither depend on parties nor men to achieve their rights and not to trust them in their journey to achieve decision-making positions in any field. Instead, women should depend on themselves and their sisters in order to achieve their goals and obtain their rights,” Al-Eriani advised.