Photo via Oxfam
While Yemeni society continues to obsess about marriage, the country continues its downward economic spiral. A recent report concluded that early marriage is a huge obstacle in the path of development. A political sociology professor at Sana'a University, Dr. Abdulbaqi Shamsan, recently told Yemen Times that Yemen's demographics are changing; 70% of the population is young and about 50% of it is female. When women marry young, they retire to their homes leaving the country depleted from a much needed workforce. Moreover, these young brides are increasing the country's poverty rates (more than 50% already below poverty line) and often suffer from illnesses and malnutrition . Reem Al-Najar, director of The Marriage and Safe Pregnancy Project in the Yemen's Women Union (YWU), shared with the newspaper that YWU will be launching a campaign to educate the public about the harms of child marriages.
Unfortunately, awareness campaigns can only take you so far. What Yemeni women need are opportunities. The economic outlook for the upcoming period is extremely bleak. Many men will have to accept the idea of their wives working if it means that their quality of life would improve. With high unemployment rates, it is hard for uneducated women to compete with men in the market, especially since most of the female working force is not paid. The transitional government will provide more economic opportunities for the population especially if the port of Aden is revived. Perhaps the next campaign should say "Work First, Marry later". Women need to know about their rights as workers and must demand equal pay for the work they do. To those ladies who are looking for a husband, who knows perhaps a husband will find you because economically, as a couple, you are a lot more likely to live better.