Political Analysis

Yemeni Women: Unity Did Not Give Us a Lot, But it is Still the Right Choice

Asma al-Mohattwari

Since ancient times, Yemeni women have been linked with political life and have had a distinct role in governance. This historical legacy made Yemen one of the few countries where women gained balanced roles in public life as well as enjoying confidence, respect, and acceptance in running and handling affairs of governance

In modern times, women also had different roles in the struggle against British colonialism in the South and the Imamate rule in the north. Yemeni women fought and struggled with men to achieve independence. In the South, women engaged in organizational and partisan work, participated in the establishment of women’s associations, and were active in political and social life. In the North, women were more controlled but they got their opportunity after the revolution of September 26, 1962. Real improvement in the lives of women was achieved after the unity of Yemen when they started to advocate for women’s issues in the areas of education and employment and in the emergence of organizations, associations, and women’s associations.

Over the past twenty-four years, Yemeni women, especially women in the north, have seen a marked improvement in their participation in society, their integration in the development process, and a gain in some of their rights, thereby enhancing the contribution and participation in their political, economic, and cultural life.

The percentage of women’s presence as workers and producers rose after unity. They entered new areas that were not available to them before. They got real positions; they occupy positions of undersecretary of the Ministry, minister, representative in the diplomatic corps and international organizations, member in the Supreme Judicial Council, and judge.

Although all these achievements fall under the umbrella of unity, Yemeni women still suffer. There was been great changes in the political field but they still suffering in social life.

President Advisor for Women’s Affairs, Faeqa al-Sayed:

Although Yemeni unity is passing through difficult circumstances and challenges, it will remain forever and become stronger. It is gaining strong immunity against what happened to the Yemeni people who maintained the unity. There is no doubt that women participate and make demands and the women’s movement to grab their rights will continue. The role assigned to parties and their credibility in the fulfillment of women’s rights should be achieved because it is no longer acceptable to use the women electoral card used by politicians or newspapers to achieve immediate interest.  Women are active partners and the country’s development needs to activate this partnership. Parties, political forces, and all the executive, legislative and judicial branches have to abide by the National Dialogue Conference’s outputs that empower women with at least 30% of the ratio of representation and incumbency.

We provide honest advice to those who are calling for a return to the pre-May 22 borders that the history is not going back and the only thing you have do is to ride the ship of unity so as not be one of the losers. There are experiences in the world similar to the people who lived the reality of the country’s division. Some got unity such as Germany in the framework of the federal State, and either before or after they are still Germans. Thus we are the same, whether we are in the framework of federalism or an integrationist unity state.

Raja al-Mosabi, Head of the Arab Association for Human Rights, Goodwill Ambassador for International Peace

Unity is a great thing but there are many people who distorted it in the south and the north and changed all its positives to negatives. It was enough for us to travel to the south or north without a card and without any problems. Now all that has disappeared and moving from north to south has become difficult, especially at checkpoints and hotels. Southerners have started to have a bad view of northern people. Although of all that I say that the only affected, disadvantaged, and violated people are the public in the north and south, and the beneficiaries are authorities in the north and south.

In the unity period, a spirit of hatred between North and South was created and the distinction between them erased all the positives of unity. In 2011, we had  hope that everything would be changed but unfortunately the negatives increased. Southerners have started to complain of injustice and they don’t know that northerners are suffering more from injustice. I have hope that Yemen will be mproved if partisan sectarianism and regionalism are canceled and we appoint a qualified and efficient government. Even if there is federalism, the work can’t be complete without a qualified government.

Huda Shaif al-Kateeb, Southern Women Union:

Naturally, women are ambitious and demand all the rights. With women’s efforts they could realize a lot of their rights. We are now in the first step of the ladder to live up to the aspirations of women in Yemen. Humans always develop and the unity of Yemen achieved a lot of development in education and the economic situation, especially women’s education in the north. But development did not continue to grow and now we are trying to strive achieve what we aspire to in Yemen as a whole.

Ghada Basalim, Southern Women Union

In the recent period, many Yemenis demanded separation and some struggled to keep the unity of Yemen.  Among all that, federalism was the only way to maintain the unity of Yemen. I hope the Yemeni unity can liberate us from the violation of rights. As a southern woman, unity didn’t give anything to us but it did for northern women. The literacy rate was zero. I am asking all the responsible people on  unity day to stop working for their own interests and give us our rights to maintain a safe Yemen.