Improved conditions for women prisoners [Archives:2008/1220/Local News]

December 29 2008

Ola Al-Shami
SANA'A, Dec. 26 ) Cooperative efforts to improve the conditions for women prisoners in a number of governorates have resulted in the development of hundreds of vocational training programs, yet much remains to be done to improve the plight of women prisoners and their children.

Yemeni prisons often have very limited facilities, which contravene the most basic principles of human rights. Detained women continue to suffer from social isolation, insufficient health care and depression. According to official statistics from the Interior Ministry, around 255 female prisoners, including 23 foreigners, are now in the 195 jails across the country.

Training programs aimed to equip women with skills to better integrate them into society, conducted since 2001 by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Union of Women, the YRCS, and other official bodies, have allowed over two hundred detained women to learn computer skills, more than a hundred to learn needlework, and thirteen to study the Holy Quran.

During a recently held exhibition, representatives from the Sana'a, Hajjah, and Taiz prisons showed the needlework and handicraft of female prisoners.

“We try to maintain a dialogue with the official bodies in order to improve the conditions of these women, and we aim to provide them with vocational training programs,” said Nicolas Marti, ICRC Head of Delegation.

About 30 female prisoners received training in computer skills in Sana'a Central Prison, all of whom are literate, and 20 learnt dress making. “Last year there were only 5 literate women, but this year all of the prisoners are literate,” said Etedal Abdo Nasser, General Assistant Secretary in the YRCS.

“Our job is to rehabilitate these women, so we give them the basic tools with which to fend for themselves, and the vocational training programs to help them achieve this goal,” said Dina Daoud, Protection Delegate in the ICRC.

Children who are born in prisons are a further major problem which these institutes face. “We have kindergartens in the prisons, but they may only stay for two years according to law,” said Ali Nasser Lakhsha'a, Brigadier General. He demands that research be conducted into potential solutions for these children. “We need research in psychology and sociology,” he added.

The ICRC vocational training program on behalf of women detained in Yemen, as implemented by the YRCS, started in 2001 in the Mahweet Central Prison (CP) as a pilot project, and was later expanded to the Hodeidah and Dhamar CPs in 2002. It was further expanded in 2004, to include the Amran and Aden CPs. Programs were introduced at the Ibb and Hajjah CPs in 2006, and in Sana'a and Taiz in 2007. In 2008, the Sa'ada CP was added to the program.

Certain other challenges must be addressed, such as providing the prisoners with identity cards, and rehabilitating young offenders so as to secure their future.