“Breaking the Stereotype” book launched [Archives:2008/1183/Local News]

August 21 2008

By: Wojoud Hassan Mejalli
For The Yemen Times

SANA'A, Aug. 18 – The Yemen Times and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation on Monday launched the book, “Breaking the Stereotype: Yemeni female candidates in elections.” The publication presents the stories of 26 Yemeni women who participated in Yemeni elections, including parliamentary and local elections, between 1993 and 2006.

The book recounts both the success stories and the failures of women candidates in Yemeni elections, as well as the obstacles they faced during their journey throughout the electoral process, how they learned from such experiences and how to make use of their failures in their possible future participation.

Women from various Yemeni governorates attended a seminar, sharing their own experiences and encouraging other women to participate more and play an active role in their society.

“This publication attempts to answer many questions, one of which is that amid 15 years of democratic practice, there has been substantial progress in one area, with increasing numbers of women casting their votes in elections, whereas on the other side, there seems to be no progress at all,” observes Felix Eikenberg, resident representative of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.

He explains, “This book is about the experiences of Yemeni women who have represented themselves in [Yemeni] elections, covering every election from 1993 to 2006, both on the parliamentary and the local levels. It includes both successful and unsuccessful candidates, typical and atypical women, in addition to those candidates who won on party tickets, as well as independents.”

Eikenberg went on to say that he hopes the book will prove useful to those Yemeni women intending to run and win in future elections, to those who would like to support them in doing so, to Yemen's political parties, to the Supreme Commission for Elections and Referendum and to the international bodies involved in the democratization process in Yemen.

He says the foundation's biggest hope is to see more Yemeni women represented in Parliament and on local councils so that those institutions may reflect more accurately and truly the society they represent.

Yemen Times Editor-in-Chief Nadia Al-Sakkaf states, “The main purpose of this book is to document Yemeni women's participation in previous elections, not only as voters, but as candidates.”

She noted, “Throughout the work [of compiling this book], there were many obstacles, one of which was lack of accurate statistics regarding women who have participated in previous elections. For this reason, we had to rely on candidates' memories, which didn't help that much, but it was very useful.”

Al-Sakkaf explained that the compilers attempted to determine common factors among the participants to ease the task and studies about women, as well as to assist the upcoming parliamentary elections.

“One question we asked the candidates was whether they plan to run in the upcoming elections. Most answered affirmatively, regardless of their previous frustrations, which proves that [Yemeni] women's political walk is moving forward,” Al-Sakkaf concluded.

Raufa Hassan Al-Sharki, a mass media professor and chairperson of the Cultural Development Foundation, was one previous election candidates interviewed for the book. She commented, “[Yemeni] women's participation in elections is a clear endorsement of democracy and a modern state. With more encouragement and support, a day will come when women candidates have the same chances as their male counterparts, thereby creating a healthy democratic environment where the success factor in an election is a candidate's ability to truly represent his or her people's best interests.”

Husen Al-Janabi, another interesting female candidate from Dhamar governorate, stated, “It's good to realize that our stories have become a way to guide others, as well as helping them understand more about the elections and the environment surrounding them. I experienced a rough competition alongside 14 male candidates, but I managed to win due to the support of my family, particularly my husband, who ironically, belongs to the JMP [the opposition Joint Meeting Parties] while I represent the GPC [the ruling General People's Congress party]! However, he fully supported me and I won with 13,000 votes, actually beating a sheikh who had run before.”