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Noon Arabia argues for the empowerment of Yemeni women in the worst country in the world for gender disparity.

Yemen is the poorest country in the Arab world with limited opportunities and resources, and has high unemployment and widespread corruption and rampant human rights abuses.  The life of an average Yemeni citizen's is therefore challenging, yet to be a woman in Yemen is even more challenging. Women in Yemen are perceived and treated as inferior to men in most spheres of society, and have limited access to health care, economic opportunities and education.

No surprise Yemen was considered the worst place for a woman according to a recent article by the HuffingtonPost based on the Global Gender Gap 2011 report, which examines the gap between men and women in four fundamental categories: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment. Although Yemen has three women ministers in the current transitional unity government, 3 members in parliament, 1 in the lower house and 2 in the upper house, and there was one woman ambassador out of 57 posts, yet it continues to occupy the last place in the region as well as in the overall rankings of 135 countries for six consecutive years.

Yemen is one of the worst countries in the world in terms of gender disparity, the discrimination against women in Yemen is highlighted by the World Bank figures which indicate that males achieve 5,9 year of education on average while females only achieve 1.3 years and in the work force women only represent 6%.Illiteracy rate in Yemen is 52 % and for women it is as high as 70%. 

Among the human rights abuses that women are subject to in Yemen is child marriage. According to a nationally representative survey conducted by the Yemeni government and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 2006, 14 percent of girls in Yemen are married before reaching age 15, and 52 percent are married before 18. Just as Tawakkol Karman made headlines last year becoming the first Arab, Yemeni woman to win the Noble Peace Prize,  Nujood Ali also made headlines in 2008 as Yemen's first child bride to end her marriage, yet since then no law has been passed in Yemen to set the female age limit for marriage.

A 2005 study by Sanaa University noted that, in some rural areas, girls as young as eight are married. Their early removal from school for early marriage, cuts short the education and skills necessary to provide for themselves and their families. Besides the risk of marital rape before puberty and domestic violence, are reproductive health risks due to adolescents' smaller pelvises such as obstructed labour which can lead to maternal mortality. Many become pregnant and have children soon after marriage, while they are still children themselves. 

Yemen has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, seven women die everyday due to complications during childbirth. United Nations Development Program (UNDP) cites child marriage as a factor that contributes to Yemen’s lack of progress in meeting at least two goals: gender equality and reduced maternal mortality.

Yemeni Women have amazed the world by playing a major role in the revolution as activists, doctors, nurses, photographers, writers and some bravely faced security forces bullets and became martyrs. They led demonstrations and marches as their male counterparts  and were as determined to demand freedom, democracy and social justice that would offer their sons and daughter a new and brighter future, yet they continue to be discriminated and marginalized in the decision making process to bring about that change.

'Women are not allowed to take part in decision making, they are not recognized as equal human beings and are not in the places they deserve to be in, despite their qualifications. Discrimination is a serious problem in Yemen'.~ Amal Basha, Director, Sisters' Arab Forum for Human Rights

Although Women in Yemen have made progress in comparison to other women in the region, yet they are still fighting to regain equality and recognition in society. Now more than ever, the Yemeni civil society is advocating for more rights for women, Support Yemen is currently running a campaign calling for:

  1. Free mandatory education and adequate health care for females
  2. Setting a minimum age of marriage at 18 years
  3. Criminalizing domestic violence
  4. 30 % quota for women in all decision making positions

'Yemeni women are strong ...they don't accept to be oppressed, ... they are capable of making things happen, this is why I am proud of Yemeni women.' - Suha Bashreen, Women Coalition

From Notes by Noon blog.

Tagged under: Middle East

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