Sana’a, Yemen – After years of activism, Amal Basha’s demands for guarantees of greater representation for women in the political system has finally edged closer to reality.
“Women have been fighting for it for a long time,” said the prominent Yemeni human rights advocate, referring to the more than decade-long battle she and others have waged to secure women representation in public office in Yemen.
In the aftermath of the country’s 2011 uprising, and over the course of the nation’s 10-month National Dialogue Conference (NDC), Basha and other pro-quota NDC delegates were able to secure the endorsement of an article for the nation’s new constitution – planned to be ratified later this year – recommending that at least 30 percent of those serving in government should be women.
This quota, proponents have argued, could rectify Yemen’s poor track record of female representation in politics and potentially chip away at negative stigmas of women holding positions of power.
Currently, there is only one woman in a 301-member parliament and three out of 35 ministers are female. The country continues to rank extremely low on many international measures of gender equality.
“Most women have come to the realisation that we will not be represented unless there is a quota – even those from the more conservative parties,” said Jamila Ali Raja, an independent NDC representative.
But given Yemen’s already shaky record of commitment to the inclusion of women in serious numbers on post-NDC committees, there is worry that the measure could fall victim to political wrangling and fail to make it into the constitution.
The Constitutional Drafting Commission (CDC), the presidentially appointed group assigned to write the constitution, was one member short of reaching the minimum margin of 30 percent, with only four women sitting on the 17-member panel.
Julie Ballington, a political participation adviser at United Nations Women, warned that quotas are often undermined if there are no sanctions in place to ensure compliance.
“Quotas are an electoral measure. They can reshape the makeup of the political institution, but other complimentary strategies and measures are needed for women to have an impact and have results,” Ballington said.