Under the slogan “equality of women, development for all”, the Women National Committee, and the Yemen Women’s Union, celebrated International Women’s Day (IWD) in corroboration with the United Nations Population Fund. Dr. Shafiqa Saeed, chairman of the Women’s National Committee, argued that what women’s achievements in the country have resulted from faith in women, which is a major factor for success and progress.
“Yemeni women have confirmed that they are able to determine their own national options by their will, and they were present in all stages of the transformations that have occurred in Yemen, especially by participation in the National Dialogue Conference (NDC,) in which she had a strong presence.”
Lene K. Christiansen, United Nations Population Fund Representative to Yemen, congratulated the Women’s National Committee and Yemen Women’s Union who joined forces to celebrate International Women’s Day.
“I understand that this is the first and I offer my congratulation on the initiative. May this mark the beginning of many such joint initiatives.”
Christiansen considered the principle of equal citizenship is one of the most powerful outcomes of the NDC and it will now be enshrined in the new constitution of Yemen.
Dr. Ahmed Shadoul, United Nations Resident Coordinator for Yemen, said that history shows that women have played major roles in Yemeni society. He cited the Queen of Sheba as a source of pride for the Yemeni nation who is still admired, as well as Queen Arwa, who has been noted for her attention to infrastructure. This added to a documented time of prosperity under her rule.
“Many Yemenis have told me that the most prosperous times of Yemeni history were under the rule of women. Lately we have seen women claiming their rights by taking to the streets during the 2011 revolution, and their active engagement in NDC.”
Shadoul said that in modern Yemen, many women are deprived of their basic human rights and their rights as citizens.
“Yemen is still considered globally to be one of the worst places to be a woman. Women are a resource in Yemen like everywhere else, and Yemen needs to utilize the capacity of the women are in the country.”
Shadoul highlighted that the importance of achieving equality for women and girls is not a matter of fairness and fundamental human rights, but a result of how progress is dependent on it. According to him, gender equality is good for business, and countries with more gender equality have better economic growth.
Last year, Yemen scored lowest on the Global Gender Gap report prepared by the World Economic Forum. The report looks at the link between global economic competitiveness and the gender gaps in different countries. The more gender unequal a country is, the less likely the country is to compete on the global market. Also, findings from studies across the globe show that companies with more women leaders perform better.
In regards to the quota for female representatives, Shadoul said that parliaments with more women enact more legislation on key social issues such as health, education, anti-discrimination and child support.
“Focus on such issues and solid policies to address their challenges nurture a healthier population as well as economy. Moving forward, we support the 30% quota of women in representative institutions and decision making processes.”
Equality between women and men is about creating balance and stability that does not happen without equal opportunity. Reports say that maternal mortality in Yemen is one of the highest in the world, with 365 women dying for every 100,000 live births. Young girls are twice as illiterate as boys. It is estimated that around 14% of girls below 18 get married without having a say.
“Therefore, the National Dialogue outcome of equal citizenship is a great entry point in making visible changes for women in Yemen and from there, achieving progress for all. Yemen is at a crucial juncture, and its very future will be based on the outcomes of the NDC.”