WITA: Yemen’s first women’s IT association [Archives:2006/956/Reportage]

June 19 2006

Interviewed by: Mohammed Al-Jabri
Last month, SOUL announced the launch of the Women in Technology Association (WITA), which is the first of its kind in Yemen. In an exclusive interview with Women in Technology (WIT) program manager, Lina Al-Eryani, she gives an overall view of WITA.

What is WITA and how did the idea come about?

WITA is the first Yemeni women's IT (Information Technology) association and its establishment came within the framework of the Women in Technology (WIT) program to ensure the program's sustainability and expand its impact to a larger group of women.

What are WITA's goals?

One of WITA's main aims is to create a database for female computer science graduates, including WIT participants, which will provide women better access to the labor market in a culturally appropriate way. The database will be available to private businesses, government agencies and academic institutes, which will facilitate recruitment of IT graduates and improve access to the labor market, especially for women specialized in this field.

Why is WITA confined to Sana'a city and not in other governorates?

Because the WIT program has begun only in Sana'a; accordingly, WITA initially has been established in Sana'a. However, we hope that through its members' efforts and commitment, it will expand to other governorates in the near future.

Is WITA planned for the long run or will it be only for a specific time period?

The WIT program cycle is until the end of March 2007. During this period, as the agency implementing the WIT program, SOUL will assist WITA to stand on its own by providing an officer for WITA meetings, securing official recognition for the association and training administrative members, once they're elected, in grant proposal writing and management issues.

How many women have joined WITA so far and on what basis do you select them?

Because WITA initially is targeting all WIT program participants, the number of women in the general assemblage will be around 138, the same number who attended WITA's first meeting. We're confident that the second meeting, which officially will launch WITA and elect administrative members, will attract more women interested in joining the association.

Why do you focus on IT?

Yemen's total population is 19.4 million, with women representing 51 percent. However, their participation in the paid labor force is only 24 percent and their participation in the IT field is even lower, with women accounting for only 15 percent of professional and technical jobs, according to the Women's National Committee's 2004 Human Development Report.

Impediments to women's education in the IT field are exacerbated by lack of access due to the high price of training, lack of women-only classes and low quality? of training. Thus, by providing free training with high quality? in a women-only environment, we hope to contribute to building women's IT skills, which is the most sought-after skill on the labor market, both by private and public sectors, which ultimately will improve women's access to the labor market.

Are there any other NGOs or establishments for IT for men and/or women or are you the sole association concerned with IT in Yemen?

There are no other IT associations in Yemen, either for men or women; thus, WITA is Yemen's first IT association in general.

How widespread is computer illiteracy in Yemen?

Even though there are no statistics on computer illiteracy among men or women, the 2004 Women's National Committee Human Development Report states that only 15 percent of women work in the IT field. Of course, this can be attributed to several other reasons, especially since women's participation in the labor market in general is only 24.6 percent, according to the same report. But since women still lack access to education in general and the literacy rate among women stands at 28.5 percent, we can deduce that computer illiteracy among women is very high, although no statistics are available in this regard.

How do you receive funding and support for WITA?

During the establishment phase, WITA will be supported by WIT technology, which is implemented by SOUL for the Development of Women and Children. Following the WIT program's end, we hope WITA already will be established and its member trained and thus able to seek funding by themselves to be independent.

What are your future plans for WITA?

Based on outcomes from WITA's first meeting, the selected preparatory committee, consisting of seven members elected by all members attending the first meeting, will establish WITA's plans and activities.