Yemeni women’s participation in the revolution proves to be an unprecedented incident

Women have topped the 2011 Yemeni Revolution where the majority demonstrated in favour of the removal of the regime. It was the first time women had significantly participated in the making of an event that would forever change Yemeni politics to the direction of justice, freedom and equality for women; and would pave the way for women to participate in social life and decision-making.

The women’s stance and contribution had broken away from social norms that had in the past restricted Yemeni women in a ‘traditional’ state led by religion. There was optimism that women had rightfully started to become true partners to men.

Optimism and Dreams… Dissolved

However, these big hopes and dreams that have been the main driver for the women’s revolution have proved to be a ‘passing cloud’. These women have become victims of the regime during these demonstrations, where supporters of the former regime have deliberately attacked and sexually assaulted them leading to the death and injury of several Yemeni women.

Although the ‘promising’ revolutionary process had attempted to pave the way for political equality and the formation of a national unity government, the wheels reversed and the social recognition of women’s rights had vanished and was obviously a decorative element that never got a chance to materialise into a reality.

The women’s participation in the revolution did not even reach a point close to equality where women in the national unity government that had been formed by the Gulf Initiative were not more than three female ministers (compared to two female ministers from the former regime). The only development is the recruitment of a female presidential adviser. Besides that, women in the society and their participation in social life has not changed and is unlikely to in the near future.

Fears of the Return of Islamists

Yemeni women are apprehensive of a stronger return of Islamists to power than before. Their fear is that that will permanently worsen their current situation.

The Islamists’ practices have been clear at demonstration rallies where some have prohibited the mix of male and female protestors in demonstrations and fiercely attacked non-veiled female activists.

The fear is that in the future such attacks by Islamists will enforce laws further restricting women’s freedom and at the same time will not do much on law reforms preventing child marriages and other issues of concern to women.

Deteriorating Economic Situation

The continuing deterioration of the economic situation, poverty and unemployment has a higher effect on women. The armed conflict that Yemen had witnessed whether it was in Aben Janoub or Siida shamal counties have doubled the women’s struggle in running the household, financing the family, as well as played a role in forced displacements. There are currently no accurate statistics on the number of women who have lost their husbands in violent attacks that Yemen had been through in the last ten years.

The Struggle will Continue…

The women’s status in Yemen is still built on traditional values having no concern for discrimination, violence or marginalization of women. How the Arab Revolutions have affected the situation is that it had built hopes and dreams for change and equality without the consideration on what the reality on the ground is.

Despite the disappointments amongst women of Yemen, they still hold on to the future and for changing the status quo, they will not lose momentum and ambition in the direction of struggle for their rights.