Political repression is key issueWomen’s plight part of larger Arab problems [Archives:2005/828/Community]

March 28 2005

Hassan Al-Zaidi
Despite the fact that there are plans to allow more women's participation in the political, economic, social and cultural life of Yemen, equality to men remains limited.

Statistics show in 1993 there were 478,379 female voters. The number leaped significantly in 2003 to hit the mark of 3.4 million, (42%) compared to 4.68 million for men.

Yet, in 1993 the number of female political candidates was 41 in 1993, then fell in 1997 to 17, and in 2003 further shrank to 11.

Only two female candidates won the elections in 1993, and two others in 1997 whereas only one won in 2003 elections.

Local councils elections also disappointed Yemeni women who aspired to get a broader political role. Some 35 women joined the election under political parties. The ruling party had 34 female candidates of them only 25 women got seats.

In local councils, while the total number of seats was 6,636, women secured only 35. Five independent candidates won, and five others representing opposition parties.

Women's occupation of key positions in political parties number 259 of 12, 975 female partisan members. That's just two per cent.

And women's participation in civil organizations does not exceed 6 per cent.

It is also notable that only 95 women are general mangers in all departments of the government.

They're challenging numbers.

Dr. Mohammed Abdul-Malik al-Mutawakil said the exclusion of women is against the norm in the universe which is multiplicity and integration.

He added: “if it was otherwise, Adam would be created alone, day would have light and no darkness and life would be full of evil and no goodness. We can assure that woman's role is not a step but a political and social reform.”

He also noted that the mistake committed by the women movement is isolating it from the whole movement of the society as though women are the only oppressed individuals in the Arab world; but women will not have more rights unless the community in general sees more freedom.

As females, they suffer from the oppression of the community as they are seen to be the weakest link, said Mutawakil. Their struggle to get their rights is part of the struggle of the whole society to defend its rights.

“Their role should not be limited to claiming to be part of a system where they can not function. They can change and influences the whole society and they should not wait for permission from anybody. They can be pioneers in reform: in political reform via the civil community organizations. Our modern experience has showed that the most successful civil community organization are the ones led by women.”

He also said women will have no freedom and salvation from oppression and discrimination in the society only in a liberated community. “Women's participation in political reforms does not need anyone's permission.”

Amat al-Aleem al-Suswah, Minister of Human Rights, said previously that society needs to identify the factors that inhibit women from participation in political activity in particular. “I think her ability to work in the field of politics is the most effective means to persuade voters and political parties to admit her competence. This should be in ratio with number of women.”

She said these factors are manifold. Some originate in the social upbringing, cultural heritage, misconception of religion, illiteracy, ignorance of politics and law, and the increasing influence of conservative intellectual parties which call for keeping women in the cocoon of her home, and alienates her to any creative role. There are also the economic and living conditions which determine the whole character of a family.

She added, “the conservative intellectul stream and the misunderstanding of religion and cultural heritage are main factors behind women's political deprivation.”