Making a difference in Yemen, with women in charge

In Yemeni society, women are among the most vulnerable groups affected by the ongoing war in the country. They face gender inequalities associated with highly complex social norms, as well as challenges in the political and legal system. To protect themselves and provide support to their families and children, Yemeni women especially need awareness of their rights. It turns out women-led groups play a leading role when it comes to providing that support.

The Dutch Relief Alliance Protracted Joint Response in Yemen partners with the Sustainable Development Foundation (SDF), a non-governmental and independent women-led organisation established in Yemen in 2015. Asia Al-Mashreqi, chairperson of SDF recently visited the CARE Nederland office, to meet partners and promote results. “For Yemeni women it is important to meet peers who share their experiences and who can advocate for their rights,” Al-Mashreqi says, “it is also the best way to encourage other women to participate in our projects.”

Issues women in Yemen are facing are related to violence, malnutrition, dropping out of schools or not enrolling in the first place, early marriage, domestic violence, harassment and enlisting in armed groups. Education and economic empowerment make a big difference in alleviating poverty, promoting development in the country and addressing the many issues related to violence.

Al-Mashreqi: “Throughout the war in Yemen, women’s issues were not a priority in many responses because the focus has been on emergency response. This has led to an increasing number of abused women. We are very proud to say SDF in this Joint Response brings change for women, but it is a long road.” Like Yemeni women, women-led NGOs have to work with the restrictions on women’s work, movement and freedom of expression. Repeated media campaigns by the authorities in the North and the South of Yemen against the work of women remain a challenge to women and to the country. Al-Mashreqi: “One important step to improve our situation would be for donors to have a clear mechanism to support and empower women and women-led organisations in Yemen to enhance their role.”

Photo: CARE Nederland