Yemeni Women Peacebuilders, Working against the Odds
28 June 2018
© AP Photo/Hano Mohammed. Yemeni activist Tawakul Karman, center, holds hands with other women during an anti-government protest in Sanaa, Yemen, Saturday, 29 January 2011.
The Yemeni Women’s Pact for Peace and Security was born of a movement of women working against the odds. Yemen has consistently ranked at the bottom of the Global Gender Gap Index and Yemeni women and girls have been excluded in numerous ways from economic, political, and social life. In the midst of the 2011 Arab Spring, however, Yemeni women claimed their space as political leaders. Women, including Nobel Peace prize recipient Tawakkol Karman, were some of the first to lead protests calling for political reform.
Women’s early leadership in the protest movement helped them go on to achieve a level of political representation unparalleled in the history of Yemen: they secured a 30 percent quota in all delegations to the 2013–2014 National Dialogue Conference, as well as a separate women-only delegation to represent the specific needs and interests of women and girls. Despite significant resistance from armed conflict parties, women secured provisions against gender discrimination and protection from child marriage in the draft constitution.
Sadly, the draft constitution was never ratified, and in 2015, conflict in Yemen escalated. Today, Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis according to the UN, with more than 22 million people in need of humanitarian aid and protection. Seventy-two percent of girls are married before the age of 18, and less than 50 percent of births are attended by skilled health workers. Women are systematically excluded from political processes.
In responding to the deteriorating environment, a group of women leaders formed the Yemeni Women Pact for Peace and Security in October 2015, with the support of UN Women. The Pact represents a diverse group of women committed to ending violence in their country and amplifying the voices of women in the peace process. IPTI has been supporting the Pact as part of a project commissioned by UN Women to enhance women’s leadership in the MENA region. In February 2018, IPTI facilitated a workshop in Amman, Jordan, where the Pact developed strategies according to the possible scenarios that may unfold in Yemen in the coming months.
Independent from the above, women's groups in Yemen continued to call for meaningful inclusion in the peace process. In March, the Women Solidarity Network, with support from global women, peace, and security organizations and coalitions, issued a letter signed by 145 women, including Yemeni women leaders, Nobel Peace Laureates, and representatives from international organizations, to Martin Griffiths, the UN Special Envoy for the Secretary-General to Yemen. They made a number of demands including calling for his support for the resumption of peace talks and the effective participation of women.
The struggle for meaningful participation and inclusion in peace processes goes beyond Yemen. In June, IPTI co-organized a three-day workshop with UN Women where ten Yemeni women joined women leaders from Iraq and Syria to discuss how to advance peace in their respective countries. Here, women had the chance to share experiences, best practices, and lessons from failed attempts. One young Syrian woman shared an important message: “Work with the possible, but do not forget your ambition.” The women presented their next steps for advancing peace in their countries and reiterated their commitment to fighting for women’s inclusion at all levels of peacebuilding.
Women in Peace and Transition Processes: Yemen (2011-2015)
This case analyzes the role of women within the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative, including National Dialogue Conference for a New Yemen and Constitution Drafting Commission