A Webinar Report on Gender Standards and Issues in Civil Work

The absence of women in decision-making positions in governmental and non-governmental structures in Yemen is connected to policies and a legal framework that do not guarantee freedom for women and feminist work. Thus, laws do not guarantee the protection of women and their rights to participate in decision-making processes, to form gatherings, and to participate in development measures. In fact, there is a large gender gap at the governmental level, such as in ministries and local authorities, as well as at the non-governmental level, in federations and unions.

As for civil society organizations, they are working on implementing activities that seek to integrate women, but they still need more support to enhance their capabilities as well.

This webinar comes as one of the activities of the Yemeni Women's Voices platform that seeks to share knowledge and provide content of relevant national and international legislation related to women´s rights. Moreover, the Yemeni Women´s Voices platform sheds light on relevant issues faced by Yemeni women and contributes to a fruitful exchange on women issues between women and women rights activist in Yemen.

Participants in the third webinar

The webinar was attended by 18 participants. They were women and youth activists interested in gender issues and women's participation in peacebuilding.

Objective of the report

The report aims to present the challenges that women face in civil and community work through a number of recommendations that will be produced by the webinar.

 Webinar Axis

The webinar was implemented within two hours and the following topics were reviewed:

•    Introduction
•    Women in civil work: Empowerment and Legal Awareness
•    Challenges: the negative impact of the conflict on women in civil work
•    Efforts provided by associations and institutions for women
•    Discussion with participants
•    Recommendations
•    Conclusion

The narrative endowment of the webinar

The webinar was held on 20th October 2021 via Zoom. At the beginning of the meeting, the host of the session, Mr. Marwan Al-Shaibani, welcomed the guests and speakers of the panel. Afterwards, the co-host, Ms. Monia Thabet, introduced the Yemeni Women’s Voice Platform. The platform was recently developed and seeks to enhance women’s participation in various areas at the local level through interactive exchange and activities.

The event stated by reviewing the topics of the webinar and by introducing the speaker, Ms. Anisa Tarboush.
Anissa Tarboush
Head of the Federation of Craftsmen and Professionals in Yemen. Among others, the worked as a representative of the union in the Personnel Committee of the Spinning and Weaving Factory in the year 1978 until 1986. She is also a member of the General Council and the Syndicate of the Spinning and Weaving Factory. Between 2002 and 2004, Anisa was delegated to the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. Between 1990 and 2010, she was a member of the Board of Directors of the Spinning and Weaving Factory.

Women in civil work: Empowerment and Legal Awareness

Ms. Anisa started her speech by saying at the beginning of the webinar session, saying: Her previous vision was for there to be a craft union for craft professions, and that vision was achieved. The union, which includes 50 institutions and associations, was established with the aim of promoting and empowering women socially and economically at the local level.

Thanks to the union, women have become aware of their rights and responsibilities within the framework of the work of civil society associations and institutions. Women were supported in finding jobs in the field of craftmanship and internal exhibitions were organized, to promote their products. Moreover, a literacy program has been initiated, in which women were trained and educated by introducing them to women and labor rights. Last but not least, women were offered capacity trainings to enhance their skills and to raise awareness about gender-sensitive issues, including gender-based violence.

As a result of all of this, women gained knowledge about their legal rights and about institutions they could turn to, in case their rights were violated. In the frame of the program, girls returned to schools and open literacy classes. A networking project was also launched to connect women with each other. In this way, university graduates could receive mentorship, with the aim of joining the labor market.

Challenges: The negative impact of the conflict on women's work
Anisa confirmed that the obstacles for women increased due to the crises and the current conflict. Multiple institutions, centers and schools closed, and many women lost their work in both, the public and private sectors. With a group of civil society organizations, the union is now trying to increase the work opportunities for women again, especially for the weak and marginalized women.

The war also greatly affected the ability of women to move between governorates and within cities, and most of the women who work at the front lines in civil organizations suffer from major security risks during travel and movement between cities. In addition, most women activists suffer from gender-based violence, extortion, and defamation, especially with the advances in digital technologies.

Moreover, Anissa mentioned that the social challenges are among the most important difficulties that working women face in Yemen. Working women are generally perceived critically by society, especially in rural societies where a conservative and patriarchic tribal culture prevails. There are also challenges linked to a lack of education and awareness, as many women have little or no knowledge about women's rights. Education is a key to change stereotypical gender roles and to integrate women actively into society. Last but not least, women are facing legal challenges, as the legal framework in Yemen remains predominantly silent on gender equality.

Efforts provided by associations and institutions for women

Among the most prominent achievements of the union is the coordination between civil society organizations and the establishment of civil society councils. These associations are concerned with empowering women and seek to provide them with capabilities. There is also a database, identifying women in need and providing additional information such as the age. This helps to enroll them in different public and charitable institutions.  The union also collaborated with some institutions that support people with special needs. They had a major role in identifying mothers who were subjected to violence and wo were disabled.
Additionally, Anisa reported that nurseries were opened to take care of children so that women could work. In fact, many women left the labor market because of their responsibilities and family obligations. A survey, that was conducted by one of the organizations, confirmed that most women lost their either due to the war or because of an increase in their responsibilities in house chores. Other factors, such as being exposed to gender-based violence or suffering from health, psychological and humanitarian reasons also prevent women from entering the labor market.

Professor Anisa stressed the importance of a better coordination between the social sector and the labor market. She also emphasized that the state should identify and address the needs through a five-year plan. With regards to the already existing databases, such a plan can help in the implementation of trainings and rehabilitation programs. With a match-making method, the needs of the private and public sector can then be covered by women, who possess the skills and capabilities required for the respective positions.
Additionally, it is also important that local authorities and public organizations create opportunities for women. They need to support them and advocate for laws to support women. They need to coordinate and exchange with women associations and unions, who have the knowledge are specialized in women’s issues and rights in addition to issues of domestic violence and gender-based violence.

The host, Marwan listed, some criteria for a successful gender strategy that supports rights for women's work in the public and private sector:  
o    Building women’s capacities and analyzing gender issues, identifying integration mechanisms, especially in the framework of general planning.
o    Availability of data disaggregated by sex in the various sectors in which women work in general. This includes both, the public sector, and the private sector.
o    Strengthening the process of institutional accountability in all governorates, with issues related to gender.
o    Allocating resources to apply gender concepts at different levels within the public sector.
o    Coordination and exchange of information and knowledge between all parties concerned with the achievements related to gender equality. This exchange must happen at the local, national and international level.
o    The development of a legal framework that leads to gender equality in public and private bodies, as well as civil society organizations. By now, only civil society organizations are sensibilized for the concept of gender (equality) and the importance of effective participation of women.

The webinar continued with Anisa sharing some experiences and recommendations related to women's work. She explained that institutions and civil society organizations have executive programs and special projects to protect human rights and prevent violence against women. This is achieved through various activities, such as holding training courses, organizing conferences and meetings. Organizations also distribute brochures and posters about violence against women through newspapers and websites to raise awareness in society. Digital technology and social media have become helpful in for the spread of awareness raising campaigns and in educating women about their legal rights.

In fact, before 1990 there were female representatives in government, judicial and presidential departments and women were prepared to work in the diplomatic corps and other governmental positions. Now, women organizations and associations need to join forces again in order to achieve (gender) justice and development.

Anisa stressed the importance of educating other women about the principles of social, economic, cultural, health and political human rights. If women know their rights and if they feel protected by the law, they will automatically engage again in the labor market.  

Another aspect, that is important to mention is the fact that throughout the ongoing war, many men have lost their jobs and thus income. Therefore, some men are also subjected to violence within their families.  To act against all forms of violence, stereotypical gender norms need to be questioned and challenged. This will serve both, the empowerment of women and men.

Discussion with the participants

During the Question & Discussion session, participants had the opportunity to share their thoughts and feedback.

Here are some of the participants thoughts:

“I liked the gesture of Mrs. Anisa who spoke about oppressed men, considering that gender-based violence is not directed at women only, but is based on social visions and ideas on social stereotyping, such as the concept that men are not allowed to cry. The problem is that we live in a patriarchal society in which the man is considered dominant.”
-    Jawed Al-Awadi - Coordinator of the Youth Platform for Peacebuilding.

“After the beginning of the 2015 war, a major transformation took place in society. Before the war, women´s roles were limited to family chores and their involvement in the labor market was minimal. During the war however, many women started to work due to economic burdens and the frequent absence of a male breadwinner. Thus, many women engaged in the labor market despite the existing patriarchal codes.”
-    Amin, a community activist.

“There are many women who have entered the labor market, especially after the war. Many women however suffer from a lack of support. Firstly, many of them have no previous work experience. Some women are particularly vulnerable, such as internally displaced women, who often come from the county side. Often, they have no one to support and admits a constant battle against poverty and material destitution, they also face social stigma and judgement if they go working.”
-    Marina, activist.

Marina stressed also that the women's unions and institutions that work with women should protect, and support women economically and legally. Moreover, affected women need support platforms, where they can share and discuss abuse and violence in a confidential way.

Commenting on the inputs added by the participants, Anisa said that international and local organizations provide already services and assistance in the field of relief, especially for displaced women and children. Thus, organizations provide services, such as education, extracting lost birth certificates or returning displaced children to schools and others.

The associations also focus on supporting the displaced who want education. With the help of databases, that provides information about health, educational and legal situation, they can organize trainings according to the women´s specific needs.

One participant raised several questions regarding the available protection of women who work in organizations. He wanted to know about the measures taken to provide a safe working place for women and to protect them from harassment and gender-based violence during work.  

Ms. Anisa replied that there are standards that create a new and healthy relationship between employees and protect women. For example, there are separate bathrooms for women who work in international and local organizations.

In the southern governorates, no complaints of harassment have been issued by women so far. Additionally, every woman who works in an organization must have a work contract, that contains also legal aspects and provides advice in case she wants to file any complaint. Moreover, there is also a complaint box in international and local organizations and complaints are treated confidently and in privacy to protect the identity of the complaining woman.

Another participant, who works in an international community organization, added that there are private bathrooms for women and men. Additionally, there are new sexual harassment or exploitation terms that have been added to the human resources policies in international organizations. Through these policies the employee can submit a report about any person who has been subjected to verbal or physical harassment.

When it comes to local organization, the problem is that there are oftentimes still no clear policies, management or employee specialized guidelines for harassment and violence against women at the workplace.

Session Recommendations

The session concluded with a set of recommendations to address gender issues in civil work:

•    Coordination and networking between the concerned authorities represented by (the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor and the Association of Retirees and Social Security) to find suitable alternatives for women at the retirement age that exceeded (55 years for women, 50 years for men) in accordance with the law and the Pensions Act.
•    State institutions must include the special needs of women in strategic programs and plans, especially those institutions related to and concerned with women's rights, which in turn work to bridge the gap in women's needs for the labor market between state facilities and the private sector.
•    Coordination between legal institutions and public organizations advocating women’s issues through their support and advocacy of laws specific to women, including the family law, which enables the protection of women’s rights, such as divorce, alimony, custody, identity papers for women and others.
•    Unifying the efforts of associations, unions and the Yemeni Women's Union that support women, as most of these associations have become more knowledgeable and specialized in women's issues and rights, especially issues of domestic violence and gender-based violence.
•    Creating and strengthening legal legislation that takes into account gender issues in public and private bodies, as well as civil society organizations, especially local and international civil society organizations, as they adopt gender policies and procedures in community work.
•    Allocating resources to apply gender standards at different levels, especially in civil work, as this criterion represents a path that contributes to improving capacities in the framework of work.
•    Providing legal aid and support to women, especially weak and marginalized women, by setting up legal committees to follow up on cases of women who are unable to exercise their rights and freedoms and follow them up before the judiciary.
•    Providing cultural and legal awareness for working women who own projects about procedures and transactions, whether commercial or legal, and others, to avoid them falling into legal violations or being exposed to legal fraud due to lack of awareness.
•    Designing policies and procedures that guarantee the protection and safeguarding of women working, especially in NGOs, and familiarizing them with these concepts and procedures, in addition to the complaints mechanism that guarantees women’s rights.
•    Investing in the digital space to support gender issues through social networking sites such as platforms interested in women’s issues and rights, within the framework of secret or dedicated groups and discussions so that women can discuss violations that they may be exposed to by the community that practices these violations and provide them with support.


At the end of the session, Marwan thanked the speaker, Professor Anisa, and the attendees, and all their experiences and recommendations that would contribute to our consolidation of understanding the standards and roles of gender and how to develop strategies for gender, especially for women working in public and private organizations and bodies.

Ms. Monia emphasized that international and local organizations should pay attention to codes of conduct and focus more on inclusion and gender equality within projects. When it comes to mistreatment and harassment at the workplace, some local and international organizations already have created policies and disciplinary boards to protect women at work. These structures need to be extended and institutionalized in all organizations and companies.

For the future, civil society organization need to further increase their efforts to include women in their working processes and activities. Therefore, Ms. Anisa added suggestions for strategies for civil society organizations to intensify their projects and activities related to the protection of human rights and the prevention of violence against women and freedoms. Suggested strategies included to provide more training courses, conferences, courses, and intellectual meetings to discuss and advance the inclusion and protection of women in the labor market. Besides traditional outreach campaigns, through newspapers and brochures, civil society organization need to invest in digital technologies and social media to increase the development of legal awareness of women’s rights, especially among the younger generation.

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Webinar Report: Challenges and Opportunities in Peace Building