Yemeni American women striving for education [Archives:2006/913/Reportage]

January 19 2006

By: Hakim Almasmari
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Education is a growing issue, which is being given more attention in Yemen. Compared to the recent past, less people are illiterate and the values of education are becoming known to all. Unfortunately, a weak issue, which seems to still be untackeled in our society is the education of women. However, Yemeni women spread across the globe are using their chances for gaining as much education as possible.

Ameena Ali, Umm Al-Zahra is a Yemeni American who was born in the United States. She is now a professional Yemeni American Teachers in the United States. Here she talks about education from the Yemeni American women's point of view.

YT: Being a Yemeni American, how does it feel being a teacher in the western world?

A: I think it's a big responsibility. People tend to look at you as an example for you being a teacher. The Yemeni society in general lack highly educated citizens. Those who hold university degrees are numbered and don't go as high as 1000. This is a very low number knowing that there are nearly 700,000 Yemeni's in America. Comparing the Yemeni society to other ethnic minorities, we are lowly rated in the educational aspect. This in return decreases the respect that Americans have for ethnic minorities as they only understand the language of education.

YT: Mrs. Ameena how could you explain the differences in education between America and Yemen for women?

A: Well, back home in Yemen, women strive and give all they posses for education, while in return don't receive enough opportunities to show their skills. Here in America however, women are given equal opportunities to glow and shine. This is because America is a country that respects education not looking at race or color. The more educated you are, the more it's guaranteed for you to get a prosperous paying job. I think that women are more qualified then men in curtain fields are deserve an opportunity to show their skills.

YT: What are the difficulties Women in America face?

A: In my point of view, and I'm not an expert, I think it's the culture. People tend to lose their cultural values in this part of the world. People have to understand that Islam orders us to seek education and knowledge, but in the same time gives priority to religion and values that lie within it. In America, you will notice numerous successful Yemeni women, but on the other hand, rarely they would be noticed as leaders of societies for there little knowledge of their own culture, forcing their own children to take sides with a culture far different and open then their original one.

YT: Can women in America earn leadership?

A: Muslims in America lack leadership in general, not to mention women. In my point of view, being a leader in society start with being a good person. The early generations of Yemeni Americans were too busy working as laborers, trying to suffice their family needs back home. This in result did not create positive chances for achieving education. However, for the last ten years, a big strive in education has been noticed when thousands of Yemeni Americans started enrolling in universities. In this part of the world education is the beginning steps of leadership. With education you can rise and change the people around you to the better.

YT: Raising your children in the western world, how difficult is it?

A: Oh, very difficult. In America, families are really different in the way the children are brought up. Being a Muslim mother, I try to teach my children the good of the American culture along with the beauty the Yemeni culture has within it. In this way, I balance the issue and take the better of both cultures. It's very hard to watch over your children because of schools and the influence they have by other friends. In raising our children we will try very hard to raise them as guiding stars, giving Islam a stronger and peaceful presence in America.

YT: How can you balance between your job as a teacher, and your house work?

A: This all goes back to the person and the understanding between the husband and wife. First of all, my working hours are always in the morning. This way my children are busy at school and my husband is also at work. I pick my children from school and take them home. At home they busy themselves doing their homework, while their father is on his way home from work.

I use this time to arrange a meal for my family. Thinks turn out perfect in most situations. In the end women must realize what best for her household before deciding to do anything on her own. If in any situation have to decide between my work and family, definitely family comes first. No exceptions.

YT: Have you visited Yemen recently? And what have you done to help Yemeni Women?

A:Yes I have, earlier this year I toured the country with my husband who is a Doctor. I tried to focus my lectures on education and the importance of it, while in the same time sticking firm to our religious and cultural values. In Yemen, people have to understand that Americans gained prosperity and success for the love and honor they have for their culture along with extra effort given in serving their country. We being Yemeni, have a deep rooted culture, which through the ages passed through prosperity, riches and empires that even ruled the world. All this was seen when they held on to their values, as well as taking the good of other nations and putting it into practice. This is how accomplishments are created.

YT: do you have any closing comments?

A: I really thank The Yemen Times for there courageous efforts in serving the Yemeni Community abroad. I hope that The Yemeni people in general, not only the women continue to strive in education, for it is the key of a successful future. The future looks bright for the Yemeni people. I advise them to be patient in their long road of education and I promise that the fruits will be seen in the end of the journey. Thank you and god bless you.