Hakmah Ali, 40 and lives in Wisab Al-Safil district, knows nothing about unemployment. She knows nothing but her family, farm and her cattle. She never went to a school or Kuttab (informal sort of education).
“My program starts early in the morning. I get up at 5 o’clock in the morning. I feed my two cows and ox. We have also 30 heads of sheep and goats. After that, I wake my children up, give them breakfast and ask them to take the cattle to the nearby areas to herd,” said Ali. “After I finish my work at home, I go to the farm to help my husband or to bring something for the cattle to eat.”
This is the system for all women in Hakmah Ali’s neighborhood. They all spend the whole day preparing food for their children and husbands, working in the farms and feeding the cattle – including sheep, goats, cows, and sometimes camels.
Like Ali, thousands of Yemeni women work in unpaid jobs and these jobs include farming, herding, collecting firewood, etc. They are denied any rights. They receive no medical care or education.
Compared to women of rural areas who work in unpaid jobs, the unemployment rates hit high among urban area women. There is just a small number of women who work in public and private sectors.
According to official statistics, women’s unemployment rates reaches 39 percent in Yemen while it is just 16 percent among men.
Women’s political participation
Women National Committee listed limited political participation, representation of women, increased rates of illiteracy and high mortality rates among the key challenges that face Yemeni women.
At the level of parliament, out of 301 members of parliament there is just one woman in Yemen’s parliament. There are only three female members in the Consultative (Shoura) Council out of 109 members.
Similarly, Yemen’s cabinet, which is one of the largest council of ministers worldwide, has two female ministers against 34 male ministers. There is only one female ambassador out of 116 ambassadors.
At the level of local councils, there are just 38 women acting as members of the local councils against 7,594 male members. There are only eight women who act as deputy ministers and 83 work as judges.
Over the last few years, Yemeni women circles have been trying to force the government to allocate women a certain quota in parliament and local councils in a way that helps reinforce women’s political participation.
The last few years have seen deterioration in women’s political participation, especially in local and parliamentary elections despite the fact that women make up about 47 percent of registered voters.
However, the problem is that female voters do not trust their fellow women and most of them prefer to elect male candidates. There are also other tribal and cultural factors which prevent women from electing the candidate of their choice.
Women in work
Despite the fact that women make up about 50 percent of Yemeni citizens at working age (between 18-50 years), women form only 23 percent of workforce and this means that most women at working age are not participating in the country’s development.
For those working, most women are underpaid and they constantly subject to harassments by male employees, especially those who work in male-dominated environments.
Women form 23.4 percent of labor force and they make up about 24.6 of employed people. About 72.1 percent of women are economically inactive. They stay at houses and either their parents or husbands financially support them.
About 92.7 percent of women work in an unofficial sector and they are unpaid. This applies to women working in the fields of agriculture and other associated activities.
Businesswomen make up just 3 percent.
According to the results of the Workforce Survey 2006, the number of working women reached 515,000. Only 5 percent of women work against monthly salaries while 95 percent of women are either unemployed or work in unpaid jobs.
Women and education
Over the period 2004 – 2008, girls’ enrolment in vocational and technical training has not exceeded 1 percent; however, the number of teachers in vocational and technical education has risen to 14.6 percent.
The Yemeni government has introduced a new sector in the Ministry of Education concerned with girls’ education as well as two other administrations: one in the Ministry of Technical Education and Vocational Training & Illiteracy Eradication and Adult Education Department affiliated with the Ministry of Education.
This helped a slight increase in girls’ enrolment in basic education over the years 2007 – 2008. This increase hit 42 percent. As to the increase at the secondary level, girls’ enrolment rose to 34.6 percent.
Similarly, girls’ enrolment at the university level slightly increased over the years 2004 – 2008 to 29 percent after it was 26.7 percent.