August 7 2000

By: Manal Al-Kanadi
Condition of woman in Yemen does not differ from those prevalent in Arab region, Asia or Africa. She lives in that very identical triangle of poverty, ignorance and disease; thus international organizations and projects have been established. International conventions, such as the Beijing and New York conferences were held with the purpose of working together with local societies everywhere in order to enhance woman’s role in all fields of development as well to increase her vital participation in society through support from these organizations.
In Yemen, these organizations fund projects meant for the development of woman to enable her improve economically, eliminate her illiteracy, offer her health services and reproductive awareness and politically to help her participate as a candidate and a voter.
All these led to the spread of the term of “gender”. This expression is now well spread in Arab and Islamic societies; but gender is cloaked in misunderstanding of its real meaning.
In Arabic the term “gender” has a synonym in meaning known as ” social gender”. This carries the following meanings:-
1) Distinguished roles of man and woman in the society generated by civilization, cultural and social components in any society,
2) Relations between man and woman in that society at a specific place and time in as far as distribution of social roles for each sex for obtaining resources enabling them to meet their needs required for performing those roles are concerned.
This means gender works on concentrating efforts and finding out accessible resources to shrink differences and increase woman’s participation in development, i.e., to make use of both sexes efforts in building the society. The aim is to work for rural woman’s increased participation in agricultural production, increased partnership between husbands and wives in domestic works, child care tasks, to obliterate stereotyped traditional images of man and woman’s roles in text books and to protect equality in job opportunities. These supportive projects for woman are mainly of multi-direction nature and serve both sexes equally. It leads to woman’s integration in development planning because women represent the other half of society. Interest in educating her and her participation in different scopes of life makes her a basic element in upgrading the society and developing it. All these are not new things. Islam and its kind law are the first in the world to glorify woman, give her full rights and urge equality in rights and duties for men and women. Unfortunately, the overlapping of customs and traditions, old cultural heritage led to the creation of an inbalanced relationship at the expense of woman in distribution of power. These resulted in man occupying a higher position whereas the woman occupies secondary position in the society.
We would focus here on providing information on some projects offered to the Yemeni woman. What these projects can offer to her particularly as we are approaching new stages in our life, i.e. globalization and conversion of the world into a small village, are matters we take into consideration. Men and women are now equally facing great challenges that need to be faced together.
We have interviewed Mrs Hooriyah Mush-hoor, vice-chairman of the Woman’s National Committee (WNC) .She spoke of the important projects which the committee had offered and is to offer to different segments of women.
The first is a 2-year project with the UNPF which aims at reinforcing the Committee’s role and building capabilities of its members through training courses on issues related to legal and reproductive health care and in the field of gender. Through these courses they implement some survey studies for policies, strategies and projects at a group of ministries. Woman is included in these policies and strategies.
The second is the Dutch project which aims at developing the WNC and covering post-Beijing Conference activities’ expenditure . These are the basic issues which care for growth and development of women at economic, social and political levels which were resolved at the International Conference held in Beijing in 1995.
The third is Phase II Beijing Project aimed at training WNC members working at ministries on pursuing and recording the extent of women participation in ministries’ plans, programs and projects and to bridge the gap between males and females in different walks of life. The project also aims at enhancing WNC’s relations with the NGOs as main partners in the sustained development process.
Mrs. Mush-hoor affirmed that as a government organization the WNC draws up general policies and strategies for woman’s activities through coordination, follow-up and recording all programs from different government and non-governmental institutions for the purpose of analyzing the objectives, context and outcome of such programs. It also coordinates within itself to avoid dualism. It always considers improving woman’s conditions in rural and remote areas where they represent the most deprived segment.
Our Projects Enhance Woman’s Role in Society
Mrs. Noor Ba-Abbad, Project Director of Integrating Woman in Development explained that it was one of those projects that care for improving Yemeni woman’s conditions. It carries out those tasks through eradication of illiteracy, offering loans, creating awareness on reproduction health and family planning. It also offers legal and social consultations out of the social perspective towards the woman. All this is aimed at providing her with skills which strengthen her personality and role in the society.
She affirmed that the project had contributed to reducing poverty through offering credits to women. The standard of poor women who received credits from the project’s centers has improved. Their income has improved and they can meet their needs . This proves woman’s clear, though limited contribution in the family. This will, no doubt, raise her status and also her social and economic situation, including health and education.
Muslim Woman is not Deprived Of Her Will
Dr. Haseena Al-Qadri, Assistant Professor at Faculty of Medicine, said that projects established for woman basically aim at listening to her voice to know her right to reproductivity health and education and linking them to development. It is also to make sure if the Muslim woman is deprived of her will or a victim of negative customs. Is she an effective member in the society? Through these projects and studies it has been confirmed that woman is the basic and only source of income of the family or for helping the family despite presence of the husband and her illiteracy. Despite the moral and economic hardships that surround the Yemeni woman, she is steadfast and strong. All she needs is support and awareness of her rights. She got the right to understand the affairs of her religion and her life. She needs awareness in health, availability of services and the right to choose in the field of reproductivity health and family planning. Soft loans should be availed to her to enable her establish small profitable projects.
Dr. Haseena affirms that woman is an important element. She is the basic element for upgrading development in Yemen. Her participation, hand-in-hand with man, in all spheres of life, means participation in raising her standard in all fields. For a Yemeni woman this is not a new thing because she is the daughter of Bilqis and Arwa.
In conclusion we appeal to decision-makers in particular and the society in general so that there is a conviction and desire in joining in this conviction with others and to persist in realizing the objectives in reality. This direction is important in the process of offering support for gender and enabling women.