Growing demandPolicewomen on the way [Archives:2004/794/Local News]

November 29 2004

By Peter Willems
Yemen Times Staff

The Yemeni government is in the process of bringing 500 women into the country's police force, said the Ministry of Interior last week.
“This is the third bunch of women recruits to enter the police academy in order to meet the growing demand for female cadres needed in many government institutions and installations,” said an official at the ministry last Wednesday.
The first group of women, which amounted to 450, graduated at the police academy to become police officers three years ago. The new group, which was selected out of a large number of applicants after a careful screening process, is expected to take on a variety of responsibilities at different locations, including police stations, airports and women prisons.
The women in the program will go through a training program for six months before becoming official policewomen.
“It's very important that they are hiring and training policewomen,” said Ramzia Abbas Al-Eryani, Chairwoman of the Yemen Women's Union. “This will be very important for women in prison and women arrested and interrogated. This will be good for women in any situation where she is uncomfortable, and it will be important for her safety.”
Al-Eryani added that the Yemeni government is showing more attention to women issues, which is important to the development of women in many areas. She said, however, that a lot of work needs to be done. “The rights for women are in the constitution but are not applied because this is a conservative society,” said Al-Eryani.
According to the United Nations 2004 report on the status of Arab women, Yemeni women received the lowest share of non-agricultural wage employment among Arab countries (7% in 2001). The highest in the Arab world was 27% in Morocco.
The report also said that the gender gap between adult literacy is the biggest in the region (30% for women and 70.5% for men). Yemeni girls are behind other Arab countries in having girls enrolled in schools. The World Bank estimates that only 39% of school-age girls are enrolled in primary school.
The Ministry of Education, with the support of donor countries and The World Bank, has been building more classrooms and schools and recruiting more teachers to boost the enrollment of girls. Even though the enrollment of girls is on the rise, many continue to drop out after basic education in rural areas due to early marriages, and Yemen's population growth rate, which is one of the highest in the world, is working against the efforts taken to get more girls to finish their education.
The number of women who participate in politics has declined in the last decade. Following the elections in 1993 and 1997, two women took seats in the parliament. After the 2003 elections, only one woman became a member of the parliament. The Women National Committee, headed by Rashida Al-Hamdani, is promoting a quota system so that 30% of the seats in the parliament will be taken by women.
“It is important to see changes because in decision making, men do not see women's participation in society as necessary,” said Al-Eryani.