Single-hood No Longer an Obstacle for Yemeni Girls

National Yemen

A nice Yemeni Mafraj for Women Qat sessions

Asma al-Mohattwari

Because women are single, they prevented from the simplest things that they  wish to do, things that are allowed for married women.  The Yemeni society still believes that there are some acts that can’t be done by single women, even if they are in their thirties.

Don’t put make-up on, don’t be late, don’t change the style of your hair, don’t chew Qat, don’t smoke shisha are just some of the ‘don’ts’ single women continue to hear in a daily basis in Yemen. Samer is a teacher with 30 years old. She is the oldest  girl among her sisters. She is the only single one; her four younger sisters are married. When they met at parties or any other women meetings, Samer is the only one who can’t join them chewing Qat or smoking shisha, and even her clothing options are limited just because she is single. “I am old enough to do the things I want, but my mother believes that I can do whatever I want only after marriage because it is shame and not allowed for singles to do such things,” Samer said.

Samer gets very angry because of all the things she is prevented from because of the culture of shame, not because those things are forbidden or unhealthy.

“I sometimes like to attended meetings and parties to change the mode of work but I feel like a strangers among the married women although we are in the same age or sometimes younger than me. I just keep watching them and if I try to chew Qat with them, my mother is gazing at me and her eyes say “don’t” as if I am a child,” Samer stated.

Because of this narrow view about unmarried women, they separate themselves from married women’s lives. They have created their own world by starting to make their own parties and meetings where all the attendees are single girls. Their meetings are not only for Qat and shisha but are also accompanied by a singer.

Yousra al-Manssor said that they really love such meetings because they entertain themselves and can be far away from home and work problems. “We do it far from married women to be more comfortable and far from their annoying comments, such as looking at our clothes, make up, and shame. Qat and shisha are just for entertainment and not addiction.”

In these meetings, they can wear what they want, eat, talk, and put on makeup; all the things that are not allowed for them in the view of married women.

According to Salwa Ahmed, she doesn’t need to hide herself, and she doesn’t care about people and does whatever she wants because it is not forbidden or against religion. “They can say what they want, I don’t care. My mother sometimes told me that no one will come to marry me because I am not doing shameful acts. I really don’t care to be married and I don’t want to be a wife for someone who has such stupid views and traditions.”

Hanan Abdullah said that they hold single women meetings once a month in one of their houses. They all pay for a singer and everyone brings their own Qat and shisha with them. “Sometimes I steal Qat from my father or brother or sometimes I ask the taxi driver to buy it for me because it is shame for a girl to go to the Qat market,” she said with a smile.

For Samer, the social gatherings are not just for fun, but they are a chance to talk about private matters specifically with regard to women’s affairs. “Every girl has her own problem, love story or concerns, and there we can talk freely.”

The place of gathering is prepared with incense, Sana’ani  songs, and drinks like cold water, Pepsi, barley and ginger.

On the other hand, Ahlam said that she doesn’t like such gatherings and prefers to have a meeting with her friends in a park or a coffee house. “Qat and shisha are harmful and for me it is not appropriate for women.”

Samer added that the situation in Yemen doesn’t encourage them to have meetings outside the home. Although she believes that shisha is harmful, it brings them happiness.

Despite such meetings, unmarried women are still suffering from the culture of shame in different fields in their life because mothers and fathers still believe that unmarried women must wait for a groom in their home and prevent themselves from everything until the awaited future groom comes and frees them.