Women discuss quota system for Yemen [Archives:2007/1101/Local News]

November 8 2007

By: Fatima Al-Ajel
The National Democratic Institute suggests ways to increase women's representation in the next elections by allocating 15 percent of parliamentary seats for them under a quota system in Yemen.

NDI program representative Flour Borming affirms that it is important to call for such a system's implementation, but this will happen only if Yemeni political parties accept the seating quota system as a way to ensure women's representation in the next elections.

NDI praises President Ali Abdullah Saleh's initiative to allocate 15 percent of Parliament seats for women, hoping to start implementing such system before the 2009 elections. “Yemen must be realistic about implementing a quota system because there isn't much time. The next elections may begin without making any step toward working on the quota system,” Borming warns.

At the third session of the Sisters Arab Forum for Human Rights held Monday in cooperation with NDI, Yemeni women discussed the possibility of implementing a quota system in Parliament by dedicating 15 percent of seats for women.

Numerous members from different political parties, deputies of the French and German ambassadors, media and other interests participated in the discussion.

According to NDI, the ruling General People's Congress plays a role in making a quota system effective by forming a legal committee to study practical options for such a system in Yemen.

Borming explains that adding women's seats to the Yemeni Parliament is a way to increase their quota, just as it was the most practical option for Jordan and Morocco's quota systems. Under such systems, women candidates with the highest percentage of votes in their electoral centers win seats in Parliament.

Borming stresses that Yemeni political parties must accept such a quota system in order to ensure women's representation in elections. Parties will find it advantageous to nominate women as candidates and support them to succeed in elections; thus, they will gain more seats in Parliament.

Additionally, Borming advises Yemeni women to follow the process of implementing the quota system with the higher committee for the upcoming 2009 parliamentary elections, as well as cooperate with the ruling party, which is in charge of implementing the quota system.

Further, NDI expressed its willingness to support its suggestions with all of its facilities in order to implement such a quota system in Yemen. “We can help by bringing together legal expertise, assisting the political parties' women's committees to lobby Parliament, helping to organize media awareness campaigns, and of course, by training women candidates,” Borming adds

SAF director Amal Al-Basha called on political party representatives to enhance women's participation in politics and expressed her dissatisfaction with the percentage the ruling party has allocated for women's representation in elections.

“We're looking for more than 15 percent. Why we don't get 30 percent as a legal right for women, according to the International Beijing Declaration that Yemen signed?” Al-Basha asked.

Wameedh Shakir presented a paper attempting to answer why society needs women representatives, not only in elections, but in all government facilities. “We call for 30 percent of women's representatives under the quota system in order to guarantee society's total development as a whole.

“The presence of women is to represent women, not to compete with men,” she clarified.

Shakir noted that several Arab Islamic countries formerly were in the same situation as Yemen, but they already have implemented such a quota system successfully. For example, Egypt allocated a certain number of seats for women in 1979 and Morocco did likewise in 1997 under their respective quota systems. The measures passed and the quota systems were implemented successfully.