Yemen celebrates International Women’s Day [Archives:2007/1031/Front Page]

March 8 2007

By: Nadia Al-Sakkaf
Yemeni women's government and non-governmental organizations have decided to take the battle of fighting violence against women, which the United Nations chose for its 2007 international theme, to legal grounds.

SANA'A, March 7 ) This year, Yemeni organizations are celebrating the 30th anniversary of International Women's Day, since its 1997 establishment by the United Nations, which is recognizing this year's event under the theme, “Ending Impunity for Violence Against Women and Girls.”

However, in Yemen, the Women's National Committee and the Yemeni Women's Union are dedicating 2007 to legal protection of women. The union is celebrating Women's Day today in the presence of Brigitte Girardin, French Minister Delegate for Cooperation, Development and Francophony.

This year's celebration emphasizes achieving social and legal justice for Yemeni women. A documentary film reflecting the union's accomplishments in fighting for women's issues also will be shown. Among other issues, the documentary reflects the fact that 30 out of 33 women candidates succeeded in winning seats in last September's local council elections.

Continued on page 2

Similarly, the Women's National Committee, a governmental organization concerned with Yemeni women's welfare, will celebrate International Women's Day on Saturday and Sunday under the theme, “Law, an institutional protection for societies.”

The two-day event will reflect on women's conditions in the Arab world, with an emphasis on women in the media, as well as the U.N. report on women's development.

Local issues including the plight of rural women, women in the private sector, women in politics and women in NGOs will be discussed. The event also will discuss the committee's 2006 report and new activities planned for 2007, including follow-up of free childbirth services, a campaign against early marriage, establishing a network to fight violence against women and creating gender sensitive budgets in the education sector.

In a press statement by the United Nations Development Program, several impediments must be overcome to reach the promised Millennium Development Goals by 2015. One obvious barrier is violence against women.

“A central tenet of UNDP's human development mandate is the recognition that we won't reach the MDGs unless women are afforded the same freedoms and opportunities as men. Such equality is impossible in a world where at least one in every three women faces some form of violence in her lifetime, regardless of her culture, religion, socioeconomic class or education level,” noted Kemal Dervis, UNDP head and chair of the U.N. Development Group.

In a response to the U.N. secretary-general's 2006 study calling for a stronger, better coordinated and more visible leadership role to address violence against women, an initiative called the U.N. Action Against Sexual Violence in Crisis was created.

Involving 10 U.N. bodies, it's designed to provide more and better support to women victims of violence in crisis situations, increase coordination, enhance accountability and end impunity for those perpetrating violence against women.

Through its operations to relieve hunger around the world, WFP sees first hand how a lack of adequate food often creates situations in which women and girls are vulnerable to all forms of violence. That violence may be an isolated episode, but more often it is sustained and severe abuse.

“When we work towards a world free from hunger, we must also work to eliminate the terrible problems alongside it – poverty, illiteracy, conflict, fear, and of course, gender violence,” says Sheila Sisulu, WFP's Deputy Executive Director.

In Yemen, WFP provides take-home rations to female students from grades 1 to 12 to promote girls' education and reduce the prevalent gender disparity where the percentage of girls not enrolled in schools is 46%. These take-home rations help in delaying early marriage and there are fewer drops out rates from schools. “If it weren't for WFP food, I would have been like my elder sisters who collect wood and water and haven't had any education,” said Waleeda, a WFP beneficiary. Her sisters and many older girls in her village have been deprived from education due to hard economic situations. Instead, they are forced to do hard labour in order to provide a basic need: Food.

WFP Yemen also provides micronutrient-take home rations to women through the targeted Health Centres to reduce malnutrition levels among pregnant women and lactating mothers. This encourages women to go to Health Centres and get better care instead of suffering from complications of pregnancy that could lead to many illnesses and eventually death.

In a press statement marking women's day UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, confirmed its commitment to working with partners to combat discrimination and violence against women and girls. “While progress has been made in the adoption of laws, much greater action is needed to ensure that laws are enforced and awareness is raised. Everyone should understand that violence against women and girls is unacceptable and will no longer be tolerated.” Said Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, UNFPA Executive Director.

Facts about violence against women

– Violence against women is the world's most common but least punished crime.

– It's estimated that between 113 million and 200 million women are demographically “missing,” having been the victims of infanticide (preferring boys over girls) or not receiving the same amount of food and medical attention as their brothers and fathers.

– The worldwide estimate of women forced or sold into prostitution is anywhere between 700,000 and 4 million per year. Annual profits from sex slavery are estimated between $7 billion and $12 billion.

– Globally, women between ages 15 and 44 are more likely to be maimed or die as a result of male violence than from cancer, malaria, traffic accidents or war combined.

– At least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. The abuser usually is a member of her own family or someone known to her. Domestic violence is the largest form of abuse of women worldwide, irrespective of region, culture, ethnicity, education, class or religion.

– It's estimated that more than two million girls are genitally mutilated every year, a rate of one every 15 seconds.

– Systematic rape is used as a weapon of terror in many of the world's conflicts. It's estimated that between 250,000 and 500,000 women in Rwanda were raped during the 1994 genocide.

– Studies show increasing links between violence against women and HIV, demonstrating that HIV-infected women are more likely to have experienced violence and that victims of violence are at higher risk of HIV infection.