As soon as women will stand up for themselves, things will change

Written by Khadega Al-Sunaidar on Saturday, 22 March 2014. Posted in Jemen

Yemen's political transition

During this critical process of political transition, that Yemen is going through, there is a lot of work that needs to be done: I think that any support should be directed towards activating people and helping them to understand and feel that they belong to their country. 

People need to know what is going on

What is federalism? Why does the country have a new shape? What’s the importance of the new constitution? What is a referendum? Will the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) be implemented? A lot of people believe that the NDC is a waste of time and money. What are the outcomes of the NDC? How will they positively affect our daily lives? What is my role as a citizen in this transition process? How can I, as a citizen, effectively become part of it? A lot of people feel it has nothing to do with them.

It’s not only about the educated people and politicians.

A large majority of people, especially in rural areas, aren’t well aware of what is happening. Peace and progress however, won’t be achieved, if not all groups all over the country are engaged in this process. What makes it even more difficult is, that there is a severe lack of trust between the government and the people. The government is detached from its people. There is a need of developmental projects that aim at helping people in areas or villages that lack electricity, water, the very basic services, and suffer from a high rate of illiteracy. This would not only improve the trust between the government and the local communities, but also increase the chances, that women in rural areas are enabled to be involved in the transition process. Because it’s crucial to raise awareness of the youth and above all of women concerning their roles and their rights in the new constitution.

We still have problems to implement our basic rights

Women should seize their opportunity to play a central role in shaping the new Yemen.But alas, we still have immense problems to implement even our basic civil rights. Let me just give you one tiny, little example: 

As a woman, I have a problem renewing my ID or passport without having an approval letter from my father, or at least one from my employer, or without having my father come with me to the passport authority to sign my application. My sister, 25 years old, still doesn’t have an ID, because my father is too lazy to go with her to the Civil Services Office to sign her papers. But: As far as I know, there is no text in the Constitution at all, which states or requires that a woman’s papers have to be signed by her father. Are there any suggestions of how to solve that? How to deal with an individual’s behavior in a country, where law does not prevail? How to deal with a passport-officer, who can make me suffer, if I make him angry? I don’t know.

I tell her to insist and stand up for herself

The only thing that I do know, is that I, as a woman, won’t fight for someone, who doesn’t want to fight for herself. Let’s take my sister as an example: I always tell her that she should get her ID as soon as possible, as it is a very important document to have. When she complains about my father laziness, I tell her to insist and stand up for herself as this is something she has to learn to do. I am not going to do it for her. That would be wrong. She is an adult. She should learn how to stand up for herself in all aspects of life. When every woman does that, things will change eventually. This is what I believe in.

But I also believe that we need strong women-rights movements that struggle to improve the status of women in the country and to secure an effective role for women in the political arena. And now it's the perfect time to do that.

About the Author

Khadega Al-Sunaidar

Khadega Al-Sunaidar

I was having tea with a young female friend, who then worked as an English teacher, and we discussed women's rights and the professional perspectives of women in Yemen. All of a sudden she said: "Oh, you have to meet Khadega. She can give a lot of insight!" And so Khadega and I met. We met only once in person, but have been in contact ever since. And whenever Khadega writes and tells me about her life and experiences in Sanaa, I am enthusiastic about her critical views, her courage and her humour. I am keen on spreading her views.