By: Asma Al-Mohattwari
Male Sana’a University professors have demanded that women not be allowed to teach at the institution. Their justification for this demand is that when women get married, they stop teaching, thereby leaving students and university administration to suffer.
One Sana’a University professor said, “We appreciate your labor, but you have other and more important responsibilities at home; you’re giving birth, taking care of children, cooking, washing and many other things, so there’s no need for you to be a teacher in a university.”
A female teacher at Sana’a University said the real excuse behind such statements is a feeling of jealousy when it comes to women’s success. She also cited the two month holidays women receive when giving birth as a possible cause of frustration for male professors.
In the classroom
Many students would contend that if a tour is made in the university corridors, a huge difference between male and female professors will be found. Male professors can often be found sitting on chairs, seemingly satisfied to read from their handouts.
Students often see female professors walking about the class, writing on the board and asking the class a number of questions.
Samah said that both the male and female professors are good and can be benefitted from. “But female force us to study by giving us homework, quizzes and activities; most of the male teachers make their subjects self-studies, and we actually study one week before the exam.”
Khadija Al-Mahdi, a professor in the university’s faculty of education – herself married with twins – condemned the male professors’ demand and said women are more disciplined and possess a better ability to focus than men. She said they’re often more caring about their students than male professors are.
Working women in Yemen have always been forced to exert themselves in order to reconcile their work and family lives. Women enter the work field to prove their abilities. But because she’s a woman, many responsibilities are cast upon her. Such challenging dynamics leave her vulnerable to physical and mental exhaustion; meanwhile, her home and children may also suffer.
Most of the university teachers suffer from the intense lectures schedule; it’s tough to have lectures and also the desk work. With demands for preparations, corrections, lecturing and giving exams, they’re forced to do half their work at home, which affects their personal life.
Another difficulty teachers face concerns their children. Some have support at home, but many others don’t. “While I’m working, I leave my children with my mother-in-law, and my husband is a very cooperative man. But still, I’m expected to cook, wash, and clean the house. I try my best to be fair to both work and home, but in the end all this affects the health,” Al-Mahdi said.
“There’s no time for fun,” said Sumia Al-Shamiri, an English teacher at Sana’a University. She has two children, and said she considers them her top priority. Al-Shamiri said working women need to be responsible about organizing time between work and home and redouble efforts to have success with both.
Working women are often under pressure to quit their job during the first year of their marriages either because of their husbands or children. A woman named Amal said after her fiancé promised her that she would be able to continue working after getting married, he soon essentially forced her to stop when he presented her with two choices, ‘work’ or ‘home’. Without hesitation, she chose the second.
A woman named Eqbal said, “When I got married, I stopped working to take care of my husband and children; I can’t reconcile both, and my house is my priority.”
According to Ali Mohammed, a father of three, children are most affected by their mother’s decision to work. He said that mothers are forced to leave their children with servants, relatives or neighbors, and that this can expose them to dangers.
Some men consider women’s working to represent a problem that won’t be solved until women themselves admit to their ‘natural duties’ and fundamental role in society.
According to one man, Mazen, “The woman should stop challenging and admit that if she achieved success in her work outside the home, she failed to achieve success in her home. She can defy men and prove her existence with all her commitment and dedication; but on the other hand, she’s lost what is most precious, her home and her children.”
For Al-Shamiri, the only obstacle she sees before the working Yemeni woman is her husband. If husbands stand beside and assist women, they can be good at both.
According to Al-Mahdi the best solution to reduce their suffering is to demand to reduce the amount of lectures, because these will help them to finish most of their work at the collage and no more taking work to home.
While Al-Mahdi faces daily challenges, because she had to fight so hard to get her job, she never considers giving it up.
Lamis, a psychology teacher, clarify to men that most of the students who neglect their studies have mothers who are housewives. “I give most of my time at home to my children; I follow their studies, play with them and listen to their stories without it affecting my work,” she said.
A teacher from Al-Sabeen School said, “Work is a right which shouldn’t be waived; if the woman waived her work, one day she’ll be a burden on their children. It’s not in her interest, because by doing so she would lose her role in political life, and be forced to endure conditions which involve unacceptable treatment. You must be involved in the renaissance through work.”