Various bodies have rolesA national approach for women’s rights [Archives:2005/826/Community]

March 21 2005

For The Yemen Times
The Supreme Council for Women”s Affairs is the highest government establishment concerned with women”s issues.

The Supreme Council is chaired by the president, and assisted by seven ministers (one deputy minister and six women representatives, one of whom is the Chairperson of the Women National Committee, her deputy and heads of branches of the WNC in all provinces.)

The task of the Supreme Council is to ensure that women”s concerns are included in national policies, and enhances women”s status in the socio-cultural, economic and political spheres.

The Women's National Committee (WNC), established in 1996, is mandated to promote women's rights and to ensure women's development in policymaking, and programme implementation in keeping with the commitments of the Beijing Platform for Action.

The WNC is the executive body responsible for preparation of national and international reports on the status of women and is intended to establish branches in all the governorates.

WNC members include all women acting as focal points in line ministries and institutions (as a result of a ministerial decree to establish a Women”s Directorate in each ministry), as well as members from civil society and autonomous government bodies at the central level.

Representatives from these form the board of the committee.

WNC plays a critical role in advocacy and is represented in different national policy making bodies such as the PRSP Technical Committee and Population Council Committee.

However, the WNC lacks the credibility and clout to carry out its mandate effectively, given its low status.

It is grossly under-funded and lacks the necessary budget allocation necessary to carry out its function.

These factors will continue to constrain the WNC from fulfilling its mandate of women”s empowerment and ensuring gender inequality in national policy.

In addition, all the Ministries and central bodies have established women”s departments entrusted with the responsibility of integrating gender in their respective policies and plans.

The number of women”s departments increased from nine in 2000, to 30 in 2003.

While this increase is an indication of political commitment in the government”s intent to push gender equality in its various functions, the gender focal persons are rendered ineffective either because they lack the resources, credibility or support of the host ministries in pushing their agenda.

Given WNC”s poor resources and capacity they are unable to co-ordinate and supervise the work of gender focal points effectively.

Ministry of Human Rights

A woman Minister of Cabinet heads the ministry, a policy making body entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring that domestic law is in accordance with international commitments and conventions.

Their mandate is to report on the status of human rights in Yemen both to the government and to international bodies such as the UN.

It works closely with the WNC in CEDAW monitoring process and raises awareness on international laws and conventions that Yemen is a signatory to.

Despite the proliferation of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the last decade, only a handful work on women”s rights such as the Sisters” Arab Forum and the Women's Centre for Research and Information.

These organizations are proactive in challenging state polices and laws towards promoting gender equality.

Other women's organizations adopt a welfare approach to women”s issues and focus on awareness raising or income generating activities.

The women”s movement as such is fragmented and in its infancy in Yemen.

The Yemeni Women's Union is the largest and oldest NGO in Yemen, established in Aden in 1968 prior to unification.

Prior to the election of 2003, they tended to adopt a welfare approach to women”s issues, but have since changed their strategic directions to tackle the issue of women”s rights with the support of donor agencies.

Despite this shift, the limits to which they are able to pursue the agenda is limited given their supporter base is drawn from the majority party.

The national machineries and the civil society organizations need to work closer together in promoting gender equality in policy making and planning.

However, at present, they are seriously under-funded and lack both the capacity and wherewithal needed to push policy makers to integrate gender in future planning.

Providing them with adequate budget allocation would go a long way in ensuring that gender does not fall off the agenda of forthcoming policy making processes.

Research and academic institutions

The Women's Studies and Research Center in Sana'a was established in 1996 with donor assistance with the key objective of promoting gender equality through various activities.

The Center intended to create a gender sensitive environment inside and outside the University, to act as a resource institute in research and gender training, and offer courses on gender and development.

The Center experienced a set-back when it was attacked in 2000 by Islamic fundamentalists as promoting anti-Islamic principles.

Following which it was forced to downsize losing its credibility.

However, with a change in the political climate in 2003 there was greater acknowledgement on the different effect of development challenges on women and men.

Gender gained greater acceptance and legitimacy in the official development language.

The center got a second lease of life, was reactivated and a new Director and staff appointed.

In its new avatar as the “Women””s Studies and Development Center”” it has established a PRS and MDGs Unit.

The center seeks to promote gender perspective through research and training