Yemeni Women are Pioneers in Volunteer and Charity Work

National Yemen

Charity work

Disability and Illiteracy Does Not Prevent Them from Volunteer Work

Asma al-Mohattwari

People with advanced degrees, companies, and factories have not been able to do what illiterate woman Um Aziz has done. While the state and its agencies who are responsible for human life were busy in the political conflict and the citizens were absent from their agenda, Um Aziz dedicated herself to fill part of that enormous gap left by those bodies and institutions who are concerned with the welfare of citizens and providing them a living.

Despite her illiteracy, she is a unique model in a society that still views women as a shame. Um Aziz was so sad when she visited women in her modest home; she asked them, “How are you?” The answer was “my children and I without dinner. We don’t have anything to eat.”

These words were enough to make Um Aziz think of something that may help poor people who prefer to die from hunger than begging from people. She decided to open a charitable bakery.

“I shared the idea with some illiterate women like me, and they support me. We searched a lot for a benefactor to finance our humanitarian project and we achieved it. We began to collect money, then we got a shop for rent, but our ambition was to buy a piece of land to make the bakery,” Um Aziz said.

The illiterate women succeeded and started to provide bread for 500 families on Taiz St., al-Safia St. and 45 St. in Sana’a, before expanding their activities to include other populated neighborhoods of the capital Sana’a. Then their activities expanded to include other demographic neighborhoods in Sana’a.

After almost six years from the establishment of the charitable bakery, the idea turned from a small bakery to a large charitable foundation known as the Solidarity Charitable Foundation. The foundation contains a bakery and provides assistance to low-income people and a Sewing Laboratory to train poor women.

Um Aziz has a wonderful ability to access to the hearts and minds of people, particularly benefactors, and even inspiring and guiding a lot of youth to leadership in charitable and voluntary work.

It can be difficult enough to find a disabled person who has managed to overcome his or her disability and truly succeed in life – let alone a disabled woman in Yemeni society. Jamala Al-Baidhani was a disabled woman who died in 2013 but her work immortalized her. At the age of thirteen, she made the decision to join an association for disabled people and worked as a volunteer to help other disabled girls escape from the four walls that so often trap them indoors.

She carried out a field study on disabled Yemeni girls, with funding from a British organization. A year later, Jamala addressed an audience from a stage, putting her among the first handicapped girls in the Arab world to do so. Her message to the audience? “The handicapped can do better.”

Another example in the volunteer work is Safa al-Habal who found seasonal campaigns to be useless and not satisfy her ambitions to help poor people. Al-Habal decided to start her own team consisting of volunteers called Be Positive. Al-Habal said that the team was established six months ago.

“A number of volunteers and supporters help us in our humanitarian work with purely humanitarian objectives and principles. Since founding, our interactions have reflected the consciousness of humans to act morally and financially. Our volunteers’ awareness contributes to the sustainability of this work,” al-Habal said.

Al-Habal says that to buy a suit for a poor child in order to go to school is something that can be done by anyone. “We strengthen these values by pushing people toward solidarity. There are some families that can’t go to the hospital for the treatment of very simple diseases.”

Their last volunteer work was building a house for a very poor family consisting of deaf and dumb father, a mother, three sons, and two daughters. The family didn’t have their own home and were living in a rental house that took up the father’s entire income.

Al-Habal said that a woman supported them with a piece of land, and they have now started building. “We are still in dire need of support to finish building, furnishing, and submitting the house to the family.”

The team searches through field surveys for families living below the poverty line and supports them educationally, physically, and developmentally. Al-Habal added that they are trying to find unfamiliar ideas and solutions like buying motorcycles for men to work or sewing machines for women as well as educational projects.

Volunteering work in Yemen has flourished and isn’t affected by political conflicts and armed conflicts in Yemen or the deteriorating economic conditions.