International Women’s Day 2017

drivingIn celebration of International Women’s Day 2017, the Middle East Program, the Global Women’s Leadership Initiative, and Women in Public Service Project at the Wilson Center collected essays from 33 women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, the United States, and elsewhere to mark the occasion. We bring together their responses—which cover a wide geographic region and a wide range of views—in this publication. The full publication is available here.

Amatalalim Alsoswa, former Yemeni Minister For Human Rights, and founder of Yemeni Women National Committee (Yemen)

Unfortunately, the United Nation’s attempts to establish a ceasefire in Yemen to stop the war that began on March 26, 2015 have been unsuccessful, because of the intransigence of the involved parties.

According to the United Nations Humanitarian Response Plan, in 2017, 18.8 million people are in need of humanitarian aid, and 10.3 million people are in “acute” need of humanitarian aid. Health care, educational services, and the public treasury are collapsing, and famine has become widespread. Many people are unable to send their children to school because so many people have stopped working, there is a shortage of textbooks, and the costs of studying in government and private schools are high.

Such a bleak picture has led to the increasing burden on and responsibilities of women who have become the heads of households after the loss or absence of male breadwinners who disappeared or were detained. The underage marriage phenomenon and the increase in violence against women, including children and widows, has decreased their means of societal security and opportunities in life and work, all which were modest before the war.

Women are protecting their families and continuing to provide what they can afford in a dangerous and unsafe environment. This is in itself fairly positive, but the system is unfortunately on the verge of collapse. Humanitarian support must be directed to help women, children, and marginalized groups. Relief operations must target women as beneficiaries as much as possible, including women of different communities and backgrounds, as well as strengthen the means of preventing of violence caused by the absence of traditional structures.

There is no doubt about women’s attempts to organize themselves to address these issues; women doctors, professionals working in fields of social service, and volunteers help the needy and alleviate the suffering of those living in the line of fire. Women have organized protests, run their family businesses, worked hard in agriculture, and educated others through awareness workshops on health and safety. Women have also cared for their own families under difficult circumstances. Most importantly, large numbers of women have continued to campaign to resume negotiations to end the war and advocate for the inclusion of women in all peace and post-conflict discussions, often in unfriendly environments.

What remains are the issue of famine and the significant challenge of peace for the future.

Though the current picture is bleak and the challenges are great, women will always be of help to their families and their country.

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