Yemeni Women's Businesses in Times of Hardship
Ahmed Noor Aldeen

Yemeni women participation’s figures in the labor market remain unknown, yet it is considered as one of the lowest in the world. The gap between Yemeni women's participation and Yemeni men's participation in the labor market and business environment remains huge. This gap is a result of the gap in education between men and women as well as the gap in participation in the public life among them. Yemeni women used to work in a specific type of occupations for a long time especially in agricultural activities as an mandatory role , without being paid in return. Also, Yemeni women used to work as midwives, teachers, farmers, and livestock keeper. Still, the Yemeni laws articles did not distinguish between women and men regarding rights and responsibilities in labor and business markets, yet what constrained women's participation in labor market was the social traditions. The Yemeni labor law gives privilege to women more than men, especially for maternity cases.  

The Yemeni society respects Yemeni women, yet it believes that women should not gather with men in public occupations or markets as they believe the only role that suits women is a reproductive role. This situation lasted for decades and by 1970s, women were able enroll into the education system and work as an employee. The notion of women owning a business and compete with men in trading, services, or manufacturing was not accepted or could be a weird notion, especially for men. Not only men but also old or uneducated women reacted negatively towards women who tried to compete in the businesses or labor markets. This view about women at work as well as women owning businesses has improved with time, yet it remains limited to specific activities such as income-generating activities, delivering services and activities related to womenincluding tailoring women's clothes, hairdressing, and cosmetics for women, incense production, women accessories,..etc. Although such activities are categorized as women's activities by society, yet men could compete with women in some activities such as tailoring or incense production activities. 

The world is globalized, and third-world countries opened to the developed countries' cultures which impacted positively the Yemeni women working status. Not only development process could support Yemeni women's to enagage in the Yemeni labor market and business environment, but also the deteriorated and catastrophic economic situation in Yemen caused by political unrest and war worked for women's benefit to some extent. Yemeni women found themselves as householders and the first responsible to care for their family's livelihood. This obliged situation forced the Yemeni society to become more flexible towards women's work. This change in Yemeni society's behavior pushed Yemeni women to participate broadly in the labor market, income-generating activities, and compete in the business environment. Nowadays, we can find women who established their hospitals, schools, workshops, importing and exporting activities rather than being employees for men-owned businesses.

Despite the current war in Yemen,  untraditional businesses run by women in Yemen are emerging. For example, Mocha Vally is a consulting firm led by women which focuses on providing advice about planting, harvesting, and trading coffee for farmers. The head of this firm, Ms. Arazq Al-Najar, is considered one of the very few women, if not the only one, who specialized in coffee testing in Yemen. As a women, she suffered to work in coffee industry at the beginning because this is considered weird for Yemeni women in Yemeni society. Yet she insisted and she became a reference in this industry. 


Similarly, Scoop is a consulting firm led and run by women that focuses on providing social advice for mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters about sensitive issues that arise when raising children. Their efforts were directed towards providing parents with appropriate tools and skills to deal better with their children especially during the adolescence period. Also, they mentor children to help them raise in a safe and stable environment among the family. There are other examples of successful woment in the workplace, Dr. Arwa Alrabie built and run her hospital that holds her name providing job opportunities for many people at different employment levels. Ms. Ghadeer Al-Maqhafi is managing one of the well-known business organizations "Yemeni Business Club", alongside "Yemeni Managers Institute" and "Business Support Center", that specialize in providing support to Yemeni businesswomen and men as well as Yemeni entrepreneurs. She also volunteers in several large social events such as "Tedx Yemen". Women also proved to be members in business boards that were reserved to men for decades. A lot of examples appeared broadly and solidly in Yemen that demonstrate the variety of occupations that Yemeni women started working in, when they were always framed by the soceity to work and involve in certain businesses or occupations.   

Despite the fact that Yemeni women make good progress in labor markets and the business environment, Yemeni women still struggle to be pioneers in the business environment. The reasons behind that is the lack of technical capacities and experience, whereas men gained it through years.  Also, the lack of support provided to Yemeni businesswomen either by the society, government, or even the CSOs and I/NGOs who allocate most of their budgets and plans for relief activities which make women more dependent rather than an independent and effective member in the Yemeni economy. There is a need to reform the support provided to empower women and recalibrate INGOs activities that focus on empowering women politically while the political process is frozen.  

Yemeni women need to be supported technically and financially to help them become pioneers in the Yemeni economy which will lead as a result to empower them to be part of public life. It is important to build upon the change that occurred in Yemeni society's behavior and acceptance about the participation of women in the different level of the labor and business markets to assure such change become permanent rather being temporary caused by the war.  


World Bank. (2019). Female labor force percentage of total labor force. Retrieved from: Labor force, female (% of total labor force) - Yemen, Rep. | Data ( 

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Challenges for Yemeni Women at Work
Ahmed Noor Aldeen