Yemen is now entering into its fifth year of war. Tension and instability have struck the country since the uprising in 2011.
It is not new that while armed conflicts impact women disproportionately, they remain massively under-represented in the attempts to bring the conflict to a close. Yemen is no exception. In the 2018 Peace talks that took place in Stockholm, the percentage of women negotiators was 4% . This is far below what is deemed fair, equitable and influential in terms of bringing women’s priorities and concerns to the process and guaranteeing its success and sustainability.
WILPF has, from the beginning, been closely monitoring and working to influence these peace talks in an effort to address the issue of women’s under-representation and to address the disproportionate impact of the conflict on women and girls.
Gathering women’s expertise to discuss feminist peace in Yemen
In July 2019, we brought together a group of diverse Yemeni women leaders in Amman, Jordan, for a 5-day convening that aimed to support an inclusive Feminist Peace Process in Yemen.
While many means of digital communication have become available, it is still so important to bring women leaders and activists together in person. Over the 5-day convening in Amman, 36 Yemeni women leaders came from the North and South of Yemen and the diaspora despite tightened security measures and mounting challenges to women’s movement. The participants were able to meet, strategise and share information in the safety of a feminist space, where trust could be built, information exchanged and different approaches to women’s inclusion could come together.
The convening was led by WILPF and Peace Track Initiative with active contributions from the Netherlands Institute of International Relations: Clingendael Institute, Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General to Yemen, and Madre.
Creating dialogue between local and international actors
The convening was built on a participatory process where consultations led by Peace Track Initiative were held with partners to identify training needs and other requirements. Among the issues partners highlighted, there was an interest in the work of the United Nations Security Council Sanctions Committee and the Group of Eminent Experts. To accommodate this request, representatives of the United Nations Security Council Sanctions Committee and the Group of Eminent Experts were invited to lead a session with the partners during the first and second day of the convening.
The convening was also a rare opportunity for the participants to advocate and raise awareness about issues faced by Yemeni women activists. They had the opportunity to share their perspectives and concerns with diplomats, international stakeholders and representatives of relevant UN agencies working on Yemen. Together, they discussed how the cooperation between grass-root organisations and international stakeholders can be beneficial for building sustainable peace. The public sessions lead by Yemeni participants included issues of: opportunities and bottlenecks in Track I diplomacy, localising the peace process: lessons learned from Taiz and Hodaida, releasing the detainees between the UN led process and the local efforts, and the South issue: between the national dialogue and the current peace process.
The convening also included a customised capacity building element based on the consultation process developed with Clingendael Institute, which aimed to improve their negotiation skills through workshops and trainings. In the context of simulated peace talks, they used their deep knowledge and experiences from the ground to discuss feminist approaches to peace such as fostering collective ownership.
WILPF in Yemen
This meeting was the first stage of a two-year project led by WILPF and our Yemeni partner, the Peace Track Initiative, with the generous support of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD). The project is part of WILPF’s Middle East and North Africa (MENA) approach through which we seek to preserve and grow the movement for feminist peace in the MENA region to achieve a peaceful and stable region where women’s rights and gender justice are upheld.
WILPF has been working in Yemen since 2012. Since then, we have supported the work of local grassroots organisations on the ground, as well as advocacy work to ensure Yemeni women’s voices are brought to the peace process and to the international fora. It includes supporting partners in the preparation of UN submissions, like the Universal Periodic Review, and promoting their participation during UN side events, humanitarian pledges and peace talks.
To learn more about our partner, Peace Track Initiative, visit their website.