National symposium on child poverty in Yemen [Archives:2008/1212/Local News]

December 1 2008

Ola Al-Shami
SANA'A, Nov. 28 ) The urgency of dealing with complications that arise due to child poverty and disparities were discussed at the two-day Symposium of Child Poverty in Yemen last week.

Using more child-focus surveys such as the recently published 2006 Multiple-Indicator Cluster Survey, the UNICEF and the national authorities are examining child poverty in depth. In the opening speech, Dr. Nafissah Al-Jaifi, Secretary General of Higher Council for Motherhood and Childhood stressed that addressing this problem was a social responsibility.

This is the first national child poverty symposium and is considered an important forum for key decision makers. The event was attended by over 50 participants from government, international organizations, donor agencies, civil society and academia.

Discussions focused on the necessity of education and the role of influential social programs such as the microfinance industry to resolve and support problems related to child poverty. “These programs are necessary for the breadwinner to provide for his family members and educate his children to equip them for a brighter future,” said Fawzia Noman, the Director of Girls Education Department in the Ministry of Education. Some conflicting views were expressed regarding the definition of poverty. Alberto Minujin, a research fellow with the International Affairs Program, introduced the global definition of poverty. However, participants did not agree that definition because it allegedly did not apply to Yemen. Mona Basharahil, member of Consultative Council, said that a person who can afford to buy soup for his family worth YR 150 and qat with YR. 400 at least, is definitely not poor.

The necessity to cooperate with society and spread awareness appeared to be the most agreed on factor according to Yahya Abdullah Al-Mutawakel, General-Director of Kindergartens in the Ministry of Education. He also demanded that every person in the symposium to do the best to reduce child poverty and to find means of a better life for poor families.

The symposium concluded with a number of views on how to better help poor children which were emphasized by the child parliament representatives who demanded the participants to be considerate towards the children's needs.

Twelve year-old Shima Ali said, “We need to play, to study and to express our opinions freely and you can help us and support our demands”

The symposium was organized in order to create a broader understanding of opportunities and constraints related to reducing child poverty and disparities in nutrition, health, education, protection and other MDG outcomes in all levels, while also re-orienting the national level policy focus from the problems towards a dynamic debate on the solutions.