Queen Arwa University holds seminar on the occasion of Women’s Day [Archives:2001/12/Culture]

March 19 2001

In a seminar titled ” Effects of Social, Political and Economical Changes on Women’s Development in Yemen.”, Queen Arwa University, in cooperation with Sana’a University and the International Women’s Community, celebrated Women’s International Day at the universities science building last Wednesday. The seminar included pioneers of women’s movements and officials as well as foreign celebrities.
Dr. Mohammed Al Shuaibi, Minister of Education, attended the seminar in which Mrs. Fatihiya Bahran, head of the General Insurance Body, Mrs. Noriya Hummad, professor in the Arts College of Sana’a University, Mrs. Khadija Alhaisama, Vice President of Women’s Study Center and a political science professor, and Mrs. Houria Mashoor, vice president of W.N.C., presented papers.
The day began with a welcoming speech by Mrs. Wahiba Farih, Head of the University, after which Mrs. Fathiya presented her paper titled: “Effects of Economical Changes on Women’s Development”. In her paper, she focused on two angles of the relationship between economic changes and women’s development. Firstly: The positive reflection of the economic changes on women’s situation, and secondly, women’s participation in economical development. The 1999 census indicate that women contribute to economic drive with 21.8% of their population against 69.9% of that of males. females represent 24% of the total workforce , distributed as 40% in agriculture, 25% in medicine, 18% in education, 17% in transformation industries, 6% in electricity and gas supplies, 5% in mining, and 5% in real estate. These figures display an improvement compared to what it was like 5 years ago. However, there is hardly any female presence in sectors other than those mentioned above.
Mrs. Fathiya emphasized financial independence for women, meaning not only the ability to earn, but also to control earned money. She also stated that there is obvious discrimination regarding women’s efforts inside as well as outside home. From the other angle, on how economic changes reflected on women’s development, she brought to light the paradox of how the 1995 economic reform caused an acute deterioration in women’s status while at the same time, government programs and those organized by national and international NGOs, gave a big boost to many women’s affairs.
In her paper titled, “Yemeni Women and Civil Societies”, Mrs. Noriya started by defining civil societies as any establishment that serves people’s concerns and which is non governmental, and democracy being the basic rule which is implemented in the societies. The fist female C.S. was established in Aden in 1956 called “Aden Women’s Society”, this was followed in the early 60’s by others in Taiz, Sana’a and Hudaida, the “Yemeni Women’s General Union” being one of the pioneers and most active in Yemen. All through the years since the 1960’s, women played a role in C.S.s, and although the constitution did allow women’s participation in such societies and organizations, women were unable to manage a leadership position in any political or even social society which was not a women’s organization. As for types of CSs, Mrs. Noriya explained that there are two main types, one which is closed, i.e. the mainframe consists of only females, and others which are mixed or open, in which there are male members as well. The census of 1999 stated that there are around 109 CSs in Yemen out of which 40-45 are exclusively for women. In her answer to what are the main obstacles faced by women’s societies she said: “Throughout, C.Ss have faced hard circumstances, financially, cadre wise, technically, lack of experience, even man power. Most of the societies are concentrated in the urban areas, whereas rural women are more in need. It’s true that foreign funds did help in a way, but the main problem from my point of view is that these societies seem to be weak in defending and protecting women’s rights and fighting violations against women. Until today, no one could voice their message strongly or confidently enough.”
Mrs. Khadija Al Haisami, presented a paper titled: “Yemeni Women Political Participation”. The study she put forward was divided into three main sections: a) Present situation of Yemeni women political participation. b) Social outlook to limitations. c) Campaigning mechanisms for Yemeni women.
To start with, Mrs. Khadija stated that the low participation of women in politics is a world wide problem and not only one that is found in Yemen. In fact, she said that the Yemeni women’s experience is one of the best in the region. She emphasized that we should not look at a woman as female only, but as a part of the society and a man’s partner. With 51% of the population being female, it is quite necessary to overcome the mental block which exists today due to traditions and cultural heritage. Even in the recent local council elections it was obvious that the female nominees did not get fair campaigning or support even from their own political parties. This discrimination is more obvious inside the parties as there is not a female playing a chief role whatsoever. She brought to light the fact that women’s lack of awareness towards their own gender creates a problem and not only when a man is concerned. She too stressed that women should enjoy financial independence and that civil societies should play a better role than they are. Comparing women’s participation in elections 93 (16%) and 97 (38%) there is a clear increase. Another example is the 35 successful ladies winning seats in the recent local council elections.
The Deputy of Women’s National Community, Mrs. Huriya Mashoor, thanked Minister of Education Dr. Al Shuaibi for his continuous support for women, it is a delightful fact to know that in the Ministry of Education alone there are around 4 undersecretaries, and that Yemen’s representative in the UNISCO is a lady. She commented on the previous papers saying that we should not ignore drawbacks while we are congratulating ourselves on the achievements so far, in the same time we should not only criticize the situation and blame the government for everything. Because discrimination in Yemen is not only gender wise it is also there region wise. However, she agreed that there are no females in leadership positions, although there is slow progress in the matter. She explained that the role of WNC is to perform studies and address problems faced by women in Yemen, to suggest plans and to put forward the studies to concerned sectors. “We are actually not an executing community as many might think”, she said. That is why organizations of all kinds should take the lead in practicing their rights and performing their duties.
Finally Dr. Alshuaibi concluded the discussion by mentioning that the Yemeni woman has walked a long distance to reach where she has, but that doesn’t mean to stop. He promised that the new strategy of the Ministry of Education includes strong measures directed to girls education and illiteracy eradication. In the following 10 years there will be more then 50 new girls secondary schools in different parts of the country with the concentration being in rural areas. Mr. Shuaibi observed that schools and institutions run by women are more efficient.
The seminar concluded with a closing statement by Mrs. Wahiba Farih who ran this interesting discussion, with a promise to conduct other valuable ones in the days to come.