Explaining Gender in Yemen [Archives:1998/14/Business & Economy]

April 6 1998

Organized and funded by Oxfam, a seminar was held to introduce the concept of gender to female trainees from various Yemeni NGOs. Throughout the seminar’s duration (30 March to 1 April), participants from all governorates in Yemen discussed various relevant topics such as development, the roles played by men and women, the evolving of the gender concept, the conditions of Yemeni women, and several other important subjects.
Nayif Al-Saqqaf of Yemen Times met Ms. Afrah Al-Ahmedi, the director of Oxfam Yemen and filed the following interview.
Q: What is the purpose of this seminar?
A: The main goal of this event is to introduce the concept of gender and its relationship to the process of development. The participants at the seminar are representatives of a number of Yemeni NGOs in various governorates, most of which are partners of Oxfam and the others will become our partners in the near future.
The second goal is to bring these NGOs together, an event that seldom takes place. This is specially important since a large number of the NGOs represented at this seminar are situated in rural areas, where they do not always have the chance to meet with Sanaa NGOs. In order to exchange knowledge and experience, it is vital that different NGOs should meet each other.
Q: Where do these NGOs operate and what are their main fields of activity?
A: They are mainly NGOs from Sanaa, Hodeida, Mahweet, Hajja, Taiz, Ibb, and Shabwa – both urban and rural. Their activities range from working with women to caring for the handicapped, to the association of female scouts and guides. There are also participants working in public health centers and hospitals and private charities.

Q: What have you discussed in the seminar?
A: The main topic of lectures and debate was of course the concept of gender and its link with the development process. Different people have different conceptions about gender. Despite the gender idea being a global one at present, it is still somewhat ambiguous in Yemen. We had to first define this concept and then go on to exchanging our views and experiences. This seminar and workshop is the first one of series of similar future events.
Q: Could you briefly tell us what gender means?
A: It means that social differences imposed by society, which change with time and social conditions, and the differences between men and women are not really based on biological differences. There are many differences between men and women that were created by society, not biological. Therefore, these differences vary from one society to another, from one age to another, and from one set of traditions to another.
Q: Do you have any last comment?
A: This event and similar ones in the future are excellent opportunities for NGO representatives to meet to exchange notes and find the best possible means to surmount the obstacles that they face. This is especially important for women NGOs to coordinate their activities on a national level.