First Yemeni woman candidate for presidency [Archives:2005/901/Front Page]

December 8 2005

Sana'a, Dec. 5- Ms. Sumayah Ali Raja, head of Yemen-French Forum, announced she would run for the next presidential elections in Yemen scheduled for next September. Her announcement came in the closing session of the “Women Rights in the Arab World” conference held in Sana'a recently,

Sumayah is considered the first Yemeni woman in the country's history to run for presidential election. She said that her candidacy would enhance Yemeni women to attain their legal and constitutional rights and would elevate their participation in different fields; adding that her nomination would also enhance women's abilities and political role in the country.

Ms. Raja hopes that she would receive support from Yemeni political parties and civil society organization for her candidacy.

The position of women in the Middle East is in need of improvement in all fields, including the political, economic, social and cultural, a recent conference devoted to “Women's Rights in the Arab World,” concluded.

The symposium was held in the capital Sana'a from 3 to 5 December under the slogan “From Words to Deeds.”

Citing recent research on the subject, a final statement noted, “Violence against women and unequal opportunity in the Arab world are still prevalent in both rural and urban areas.”

The gathering, which included some 300 participants from all over the world, collectively urged the Arab governments that have not ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to do so immediately.

It also chastised signatory countries that had added subsequent articles negating CEDAW principles.

Often called “an international Bill of Rights for women,” CEDAW was adopted by the General Assembly at a 1979 UN “Decade for Women” conference in Copenhagen.

The Sana'a convention, organised by the Yemeni Ministry of Human Rights and financed by the UNDP and several western governments, further called on Arab leaderships to “promulgate national legislation aimed at enforcing women's rights nd excluding all discriminative articles.”

The statement cited national personal-status and citizenship laws as frequent examples of discriminatory legislation in Arab countries.

Further, the conference called for “necessary actions” aimed at guaranteeing greater female representation in the political decision-making process, such as a quota system in general elections and the appointment of women to executive and judiciary positions.

In an effort toward reaching these ends, the conference made a number of recommendations. It urged, for example, the improvement of education for women and the elimination of high female illiteracy rates in the Arab world by making primary school education both free and compulsory.

Civil society organisations, meanwhile, should be granted a consultative role in drafting legislation and overseeing its implementation.

Opening the conference, Yemen's Prime Minister Abdul Qader BaJammal promised that his government would take the conference's recommendations into consideration, and vowed its compliance to all international conventions ratified by Yemen.

BaJammal went on to urge local political parties to adopt a quota system giving women 15 percent of their parliamentary seats.

Notably, the conference, also attended by participants from Europe and the United States, covered more than just women's issues.

In its final statement, the symposium also advocated the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees displaced by Israeli occupation and the “release of all female Palestinian prisoners currently held by Israeli authorities.”

It also called for “terminating the US invasion of Iraq and immediate intervention to end obvious human rights violations suffered by Iraqis, especially those faced by Iraqi women.”

Abdulrahman Al-Baidani , Abdullah Numan and Abdullah al-Hakimi, (all of them running as independents), had so far declared they would run for presidential elections, after President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced he would not run elections for a new tenure as president of the republic.