Yemen: an Arabic country ravaged by Civil War and poverty with corruption so rampant, it’s people lack the necessary water stores to keep their families hydrated.
Over the past two years, Yemen citizens have manifested battle grounds; it’s people divided on two sides, the internationally recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and the Houthi rebels. Since Hadi’s presidency, al-Qaeda attacked Yemen
on several occasions, a separatist movement began in the southern part of the nation, corruption has increased as well as unemployment and food insecurity, leaving citizens in a state of division despite their Shia or Sunni background. Yet with more than twenty million people in need of humanitarian assistance, and 8,600 casualties since 2015, the state of Yemeni women lie in the balance.
With limited access to health care, education, and economic opportunities, men perceive and treat women with great inferiority. In 2014, USAToday ranked Yemen “The Worst Country for Women”. According to USAToday, Yemen’s female to male income ratio is tied for 8th worst in the world at a shear 0.28. Comparing women to men: 74% of men are involved in the labor force compared to 26% of women; 83% of men are literate, yet one in every two women in Yemen can read a book.
These figures display a gender gap so vast— a country in turmoil— with a long way to go. Yet, the education, or even, the literacy needed to propel this gap closer together embodies an ongoing problem; with a very large gender gap in educational opportunities how can Yemeni women overcome the obstacles to combat how they are perceived by their male counter parts?
Before discussing possible solutions, how severe is the gender gap in education specifically speaking? Well, men typically receive on average five to nine years of education whereas women obtain about one to three years. The lack of educational opportunities leaves women with one path: to their homes to take care of their families. However, education is only one issue fostering the gender gap.
UNICEF surveyed human rights abuses in Yemen during 2006. They discovered the magnitude of ongoing child marriage problem within the country. UNICEF found that 52% of all Yemeni women married before age eighteen, and 14% before age fifteen. The United Nations Development program attributed child marriage as a contributing factor to the growing gender equality and reduced maternal mortality. Looking more specifically at Yemen’s mortality rate, seven women die each day due to childbirth complications— overall one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.
However, the women of Yemen have overcome their gender gap in several respects by helping the war efforts on both sides as activists, caretakers, photographers, physicians, writers, and every profession in between. Women have led several demonstrations demanding freedom, social justice, and democracy to provide their children—daughters and sons alike— with a better Yemen, however, women remain marginalized and discriminated against.
Safer world, the Center for Applied Research in Partnership, and the Yemen Polling Center released a report in mid 2017 analyzing how Yemeni women have been affected by the conflict. The report found that despite the devastation and tragedy catalyzed by the conflict, overall women have performed in new roles and feel “empowered” by their new societal opportunities.
World War I provided similar opportunities to American women. During the early 1900’s while men went off to war, women penetrated beyond societal bounds by starting to work in factories. By penetrating beyond their stagnant role as homemakers and entering the workforce, women proved not only were they instrumental in American success, but worthy colleagues. Looking at the Yemen conflict in this light, civil strife may prove to be a stepping stone, signifying the closing of the gender gap in Yemen.
By delivering supplies to war zones, aiding the sick, helping the wounded, manning checkpoints, and even smuggling arms have brought women to the forefront of the conflict.
Today, several organizations dedicate their time and resources to aiding women of Yemen; one of which being Global Giving. The organization works to restructure the patriarchal hierarchy within small Yemen communities through leadership training programs. By overcoming conflict, starting new businesses and going to school, women can help overcome cultural attitudes that leave one in every two women without a book. The organization has already reached about 127,000 Yemeni women in rural parts of the country. Also, Global Giving works alongside tribal leaders to provide trainings and host educational programs, teach entrepreneurship and conflict resolution techniques as well as distributing health messages.
Organizations like Global Giving provide hope and facilitate prosperity in a place where its citizens remain in the cross fire of revolution. It is our job as citizens of the United States to recognize large gender gaps overseas in countries like Yemen, but also, devise solutions and continue to point out these issues despite the ongoing distress within the region. Being an American woman, I cannot imagine living in a war-torn country, let alone a place with a gender gap so vast.