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Yemen: Closing the Gender Gap

An Annual report commissioned by The World Economic Forum has revealed that Yemen is ranked lowest for gender performance. The Global Gender Gap Report places Yemen in 130th place, which is bottom of the list, with Nordic countries coming out on top. Our Other Sisters want to know what action Yemen is taking to close this gender gap.

Women sit next to a graffiti that reads "Syria is free" at Taghyeer (Change) Square, where anti-government protesters have been camping for more than a year to demand a regime change, in Sanaa, courtesy of FreedomHouse

It is important to remember that there is a global struggle for gender equality; inequality for women is not just a problem for Middle Eastern or Islamic countries. In fact, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

The Global Gender Gap Report ranks America at 27th, behind Lesotho (16th), Mozambique (18th) and Moldova (20th).

The report measures the disparity in opportunities available for women, as opposed to men, in economics, education, politics and health.

However, Yemen’s position at the bottom of the table is a cause for concern.

Closing the Gap

Yemen has closed 47% of its gender gap since the last annual report.

Although not as much as Iceland (80%), New Zealand (79%) or the Philippines (76%) it is necessary to recall the turbulence which has swept the Middle East during the last 14 months and put this, albeit small figure, into context.

Yemen has made progress.

Yemen LNG

The Yemen LNG is the first natural gas liquefaction project in the country. On International Women’s Day, the company celebrated the resilience of its female members.

General manager of Yemen LNG Francois Rafin recognised the difficulties that women have faced in the country in the last year and attributed the continued success of the company, (which processes and transports gas within Yemen) to the female members of LNG, who have remained strong and grounded throughout.

‘Balqis Award’

Mr Rafin hosted the ceremony to mark International Women’s Day. He announced the establishment of the ‘Balqis Award.’

This award venerates the contributions of female organisations for developing activities that encourage improved welfare and freedom for Yemeni women.

The Al-Aman Association for Blind Women Care were delighted to accept the very first Balqis Award this year, for their consistent provision of educational, health and social services for blind women for over 10 years.

Reflection

It is easy to forget that Yemeni women are subjected to the same ailments and difficulties as Western women, on top of the day-to-day struggles which they face fighting for equality and participating in protests.

The Yemen LNG also awarded an educational agreement to the Shabwah Women Union, which intends to support adult female education programs in central Yemen.

Not only are the LNG promoting the self-sufficiency of Yemen’s gas supplies, they are employing women and providing for the female community.

Small steps

Although there is evidence of progress, it is important to address the problems which need to be solved in the country, and prioritise them.

70% of Yemeni women are illiterate compared to 30% of men: greater access to education is vital for girls and women in the country. Increased education may lead to a greater consciousness for Yemeni women.

The link between education and women’s rights has been proven, on the global stage, to be strong.

Movement from within

The European Union has funded Yemeni-led projects which seek to strengthen the presence of women in politics and business, (such as Yemen LNG.)

Women have joined men in the revolutions during the last 14 months. They want rights, stability and security on an equal basis to men.

There is only so much the EU and other international bodies can do to improve access to basic human rights and gender equality in the country.

The movement has begun from within and will be most successful if Yemeni women continue to stand side-by-side with men in production, protest and politics.

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