Labor Force in Sanaa Textiles, Weaving and Spinning Factory [Archives:1999/19/Reportage]

May 10 1999

Adopted from an MA thesis submitted by Ms. Suhair Ali Attef to the Center of Applied Research and Gender Studies.
Sanaa Textiles, Weaving and Spinning factory (TWSF) is one of the public sector production enterprises which is administered by the Ministry of Industry in the Republic of Yemen. The factory was constructed in Sanaa in 1964 over an area of about 1 square kilometer. The construction of the factory was based on an agreement between the government of the former Yemen Arab Republic and the government of the People’s Republic of China. The factory, the first of its kind in the former YAR, has played a remarkable role in boosting the national economy.
In March of 1967, the factory began, in one working shift, to trade its products in the local market and therefore was to some extent able to meet the needs of the local consumption. The work in the factory expanded gradually until it finally reached its full capacity. The working shifts expanded to three when the factory’s machines were running 24 hours a day.
The main departments in the factory are cotton ginning, spinning, weaving, dyeing, printing and tailoring.
During the 70s the volume of the labor force rose to 1500 workers (male and female) in addition to 200 office workers.
It is worth mentioning here that TWSF was the first production enterprise which opens the door to women for equal job opportunities. This development echoes the advance social concept of the Yemeni Revolution. At the beginning the Yemeni women were trained under the skilled Chinese administration and step by step she was able to establish her presence as she contributed effectively in the production processes. At the end she was able, just like the men, to replace the Chinese employees.
The factory’s social and economic effects.
These effects can be summarized in the following:
Meeting the local market needs.
Assimilating great numbers of workers.
Opening the doors for the Yemeni woman to work.
However, in recent years the situation in the factory began to deteriorate and production rates have dwindled phenomenally. Most of the factory’s hardware is out of order due to the absence of regular maintenance. Despite the apparent need for this factory, nothing has been done to bring the factory back to its feet.
Consequently, the situation of the factory’s labor force has been seriously hurt. Wages are now very meager and incompatible with the health risks, especially in certain departments like the department of thick spinning where workers may potentially develop asthma. Moreover, health insurance is not guaranteed and most of the workers are not aware of their rights guaranteed by the official Law of Labor. The complete absence of female activities in the Worker’s Syndicate is another negative factor. All of this has forced many female workers to quit working in the factory and to look for other less difficult and risky jobs.
Female Work Obstacles:
The most important setback is the female’s overlapping role inside and outside her house. The situation for the woman working in the industrial sector is definitely harder than the situation in the office work. Work in the industrial enterprise is longer and harder. Dealing with the factory’s equipment and hardware calls for maximum alertness and caution, not to mention the concentrated muscular effort. Therefore, more care should be given to the woman working in the factory to help her achieve job satisfaction which should ultimately reflect itself in better performance and high productivity.
Another setback facing the mother/woman working in the factory is the absence of appropriate kindergartens which can take care of the woman’s kids during her working shifts. The factory already has one kindergarten, but it is poorly equipped and absolutely out of place. We don’t need to repeat here that a modern and standardized kindergarten is an essential factor in the woman’s job welfare.
A survey conducted on the factory’s female workers concluded with the following results:
The workers’ ages vary between 16 years and 65 and the average age is 31 years.
Most of the female workers come form rural areas, either through birth or residence.
The level of education among the workers is very low while the degree of illiteracy is very high. Very few of them can read and write.
The female’s are not represented in administration or senior posts.
The engagement of the Yemeni woman in out of house employment is not only brought about by economic factors, but also by the social and behavioral transformation in the modern Yemeni society.
Although the level of education among the female workers is low, working in a career has helped many of them to acquire practical life-related knowledge and experiences. It also helped her to achieve a certain level of financial independence.
* To encourage female scientific researches, especially those related to the improvement of the working woman’s role.
* The expansion of woman vocational and educational programs, with more attention to illiteracy eradication programs.
* Creating the right atmosphere to achieve equal job opportunity between man and woman.
* Improving services in social and health care specially for women working in the industrial sector.
* To encourage female workers to join the relevant workers unions and vocational syndicates.
* Finding ways to increase wages for women working in the industrial enterprises so as to cope up with the recent standards of living.
* Paying more care and support for the existing institutions working for the development of family situations, such as:
* Center of Applied Researches and Female Studies.
* Woman’s National Committee.
* The Yemeni Women Union.
* Department of Woman and Child.
* Department of Rural Families Development.
* Department of Productive Families Development.
By: Ahlam Al-Mutawakel,
Yemen Times, Sanaa.