Women & Politics in Yemen [Archives:1999/04/Reportage]

January 25 1999

There is much talk about empowerment of women among Yemeni politicians. The concept features visibly in the programs of all political parties. The reality, however, is something different.
At best, women have become a token which is displayed to make a good impression on local and international circles as the situation calls for. That is why almost all parties have brought on board to their top organs a few women.
Though politicians and political parties do not take women seriously as decision-makers, they do take them seriously as voters. The record shows that nearly 30% of total voters in the last parliamentary elections were women. That is why all parties have a section for mobilizing female votes. That is also why most party programs refer to women’s rights and other similar issues.
But, while the men do not really take women seriously as partners in political decision-making, how do women view their role. It is sometimes said that women stand in the way of female empowerment than men because they have accepted the existing power-sharing formula. I have decided to talk to a select group of women about this matter.
Here is what they said.
Social status: married.
Age: 29
Job: housewife
Number of children: 5
Area of origin: Haraz
Qualifications: secondary school certificate
We females are not much concerned with politics or anything related to it. It is normal, women are attracted to other objects which are well-known to all. I think that men are more concerned with politics, economy, and even sports. As far as I am concerned, I leave all these things for my husband, for he is infatuated with politics. My husband does not belong to any party, but, more often than not, he shares in the general elections.
I do not care for reading newspapers, local or foreign, since a married woman has a lot of chores to follow up and if I have a spare time, I spend it in teaching my offspring. However, this did not prevent me from voting in one of the general elections. I voted for a person belonging to a certain party in return for a financial bonus.
Social status: single
Age: 27
Job: teacher
Area of origin: Ibb
Qualifications: Educational degree in Islamic Studies
Really, we do not have enough information on political parties except that they only benefit themselves, with all due respect to the minority who really serve the society. I and my sisters have electoral cards but we do not cast our votes in each general elections because the ballot boxes are usually far away from our home. Reading newspapers is not my favorite hobby, however, I read non-partisan papers and magazines. I cast my vote once for a person from the People’s General Conference because we knew him very well.
Social status: married
Age: 33
Job: housewife
Number of children: 7
Area of origin: Sanaa
Qualifications: illiterate
We truly love our country and are ready to die for it. If I were educated, I would have entered any political party to serve my country. I do not really know what a political party does, but I think that it works for the sake of the country. My husband is not a member of any party and we like to share in anything to benefit our country but we do not know how to do so.
I cannot read or write so I do not read the newspapers but my husband does out of curiosity, as a hobby or something else, I don’t know. I have shared in the general elections many times but circumstances prevented me from casting my vote in all past general elections. I cast my vote for an independent nominee once and another time for a partisan nominee out of my keenness to choose the best man to serve our country.
Social status: married
Age: 36
Job: government employee
Number of children: 6
Area: Aden
Qualifications: BA degree in English Language
There are too many parties in our country which groups the good and the bad and we prefer maintaining a distance from them in certain things and keeping close in others. Frankly, we are always keen to keep away from politics and for that reason my husband is not a member of any party. I read many papers such as Al Thawra, Al Jumhoriya, Al Shoura, and others out of curiosity and to get acquainted with what is happening in the country. We shared in the elections and voted for a partisan candidate because he was a man who lived up to his word, a thing which he really proved afterwards.
Marital status : Married
Educational Qualifications: University degre
Occupation : A government employee
Children : Two
Our country enjoys good Democracy, which had given a good opportunity to many people specially women such as me to participate in the political life by joining Political Parties. Currently I am working in one of the government departments and I am a member of a political party( Congress). In the beginning I faced a lot of opposition from my family, but at the end they realized that it was a national duty. My husband encourages me and frankly speaking I have gained many things from the Party.
I am still with the Party and I will always be, women are a very important factor in politics too and after seeing Yemeni women participating in the elections which is a very good sign, it shows that Democracy is for everyone man and woman, it was then when I decided to join politics.
I read all kinds of newspapers it is not important if it belongs to a political party or independent institution.
By- Ahlam Khwlany.
Yemen Times.