Prime Minister: “Yemen would be better off with a woman leader”
“The most efficient leaders of Yemen were women, and I know that Yemen will be better off with a woman leader,” said Prime Minister, Mohammed Salim Baseundwah at the inauguration. “I am saying this not as a compliment but because I have seen how much Yemeni women have suffered and yet handled the challenges with strength and wisdom.”
However, keynote speeches by the director of the YWU, Ramzya El-Eryani, and UNDP Director of its Regional Bureau for Arab States, Amat Al-Alim Al-Soswa, asked for more than just words from the new government.
“This is the only day in which women are unanimously celebrated all around the world,” said El-Eryani.
She called for all stakeholders in today’s political scene to take notice and prioritize women’s issues, especially since they have been the most vulnerable segment of the society throughout the conflict.
After reading the UN Secretary General’s statement for the occasion, Al-Soswa conveyed the complaints of the youth and women to the Prime Minister, whose greatest concern was being left out in the real political process of the national dialogue and other transitional mechanisms.
“Women need to be represented strongly in all the sessions and committees, and this should not only be a priority of the coalition government, but also of the Friends of Yemen international support group,” she said.
In retrospect, the prime minister called on Yemeni women as they proved their worth during the uprising, to also contribute strongly to the transitional period. He praised the high turnout of women in the presidential elections last month.
“However, it remains in women’s hands to identify their role and how they want to play it in the time to come, so they need to step up and work together in a serious and effective manner,” said the prime minister.
What women want from the new government
A survey was conducted among 6,000 women in the YWU’s branches, working women and those active in public places.
Women’s highest demand in the political sector was better democracy, freedom to participate and the protection of human rights. In the economy, the strongest demands were for reduced prices, reforming infrastructure and equal compensation.
In the health sector the strongest demands were for free birth delivery services, the availability of adequate health centers and of reproductive health services.
Educational materials, books and teaching tools were at the top of women’s demands in the education sector followed by improving the educational environment.
As for the most significant challenges Yemeni women faced, the surveyed women reported discrimination and negative attitudes towards women as the top challenges, followed by violence and hindering traditions.
Women complained that in politics there is a systematic undermining of their role due to stereotypes and the traditional attitudes of the male dominated society. However, many of the women’s main concerns were economic, as around half of the surveyed women complained of high prices and the inability to avail themselves of basic needs, especially with the shortage of income generation opportunities for women.
Moreover, many women complained of cultural problems, and how there are no proper cultural outlets that would enable Yemeni women to explore their potential and improve their personal and professional abilities.
Finding women who would respond to the questionnaire was not a problem compared to the reluctance in providing personal information such as name and address, according to the team behind the survey.
“Also it took a long time to get the information since the researchers needed to carefully explain the questions to the respondents,” said Wafa Ahmed Ali, head of training and projects at the Yemeni Women’s Union and team leader of the survey.
The results of the survey were discussed and debated at the YWU general assembly prior to the conference, resulting in a signed document of demands that was presented to the prime minister at the launch of the conference.