Time to Focus

Today a local conference for women titled “The active participation of women in building a modern civil state” was held in Aden; however the only subject worthy of making headlines (at least according to almasdaronline) was that Salem Basindouah, the Prime Minister, encouraged southern immigrants to return to Yemen. Like every other “women” event, an official recognizes and praises Yemeni women’s efforts in society and a general encouragement about further participation in the public sector is championed. These events have been taking place in Yemen for years now; workshops where a handful of selected females are chosen to participate. Unfortunately, the results always leads to yet another event about “women” while nothing solid is established on ground. This is not to critique any efforts made by Yemeni women. Forthrightly, they are hard working, as Yemen has the only interim government in the Middle East after the Arab Uprisings that selected three women as ministers.

Usually women are less likely to receive aid and are far less educated than men, but during the Yemeni revolution, women displayed their inner strength by standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts in order to support the future of their nation. Overall, Yemenis are fed up of the deteriorating conditions in the country. We didn’t have to be the next Somalia or Afghanistan. But now, the situation is unstable and while the entire nation will suffer, women will bear most of the burden. In the South, AQAP is forcing women to cover according to their terms and disturbing reports are making it out of the city about gang rapes. The increase of female harassment and society’s negligence is not only upsetting but is foreshadowing of harder times to come. While many events recognize and analyze the many challenges facing women, the Yemeni feminist political agenda needs a tailored approach and an innovation of strategy.

On Sunday, a group of female journalists and other activists raised a lawsuit against Al-Ahmar for libel and defamation which is punishable in Islam. During the uprisings, Hamid Al-Ahmar questioned the virtue of female demonstrators in an interview with The New York Times. In countries like Yemen, it is easy to use the female body against her and usually similar tactics are utilized by men to restrain female public participation. While these women put their trust in the Yemeni judicial system, it is more likely that this lawsuit will take a long time before their demands are realized as Al-Ahmar denies these charges. These women are attempting to defend their pride and their good names but in the bigger scheme of things, Yemeni women do not need a lawsuit against an individual man. Yemeni feminists need to work collectively against more pressing issues like famine, political participation, female education or amending rights within the constitution. Thankfully, Yemen always has a great woman (individual), but now more than ever we need great women working together (as a unit). For instance, Foreign Policy magazine announced that Yemen has been ranked eighth on the recent failed state Index, something that many experts have been predicting for years. According to FP, “The new edition of the index draws on some 130,000 publicly available sources to analyze 177 countries and rate them on 12 indicators of pressure on the state during the year 2011 -- from refugee flows to poverty, public services to security threats. Taken together, a country's performance on this battery of indicators tells us how stable -- or unstable -- it is”. Thus, Yemeni women will face harder challenges, but their focus needs to shift. While the majority of the nation remains divided over political ideology and tribal alliances, women can be the only social group that functions as the glue that is capable of creating a unified vision within the community.