A Workshop on the Yemeni Feminist Movement Between Reality and Hope

The workshop took place on Monday, 27 September 2021.

The speakers were:

1- Maha Awad: Head of Wogood for Human Security Foundation - Feminist Summit Coordinator
2- Asmahan Abdulsalam Abdulrahman AL-Eryani: Director of the Training Department of the Anti-Corruption authority - Engaz Development Foundation Corporation - Trainer and Adviser on Good Governance and Gender - Member at the Official Women Solidarity - Member at the National Harmony the Group of Trajectory of State Construction - Member of the Agora Regional Alliance for Justice and Gender Equality - Member of the Regional Network (Women Democrats).
3- Hussain AL-Suhaily: President of the Tamdeen Youth Foundation - Founder and coordinator of the Humanitarian Work Resettlement Initiative in Yemen

The meeting started by welcoming, introducing the guests and showing the importance of the meeting and its subject, each speaker was given 15 minutes to show his / her own axis and at the end of the presentation, a number of recommendations were raised.

 Maha Awad talked about assessing the reality of the feminist movement today

The Historical Aspect of the Feminist Movement's, Aden Women Institution, the connection of women with unions since the 1940s, and women's engagement in militant mobility and trade unions, since its inception, the women's movement has had many international and regional references that contribute to its work and are seen as an active force in the peace process, and how that the feminist movement has a gradually historical genesis, and what's taken on it is that glowing at a phase, and it's hiding at another, the issues of proofing their active role in national cases, and women empowerment in the different issues of women.

And she has concluded with a series of recommendations, the most important of it:
1- Developing feminist work on the basis of partnership among women's organizations and groups.
2- Intensifying participatory work to advocacy for women's rights issues.
3- Opening channels of communication and exchange of experiences and information on feminist work in the field of advocacy.
4- Strengthening the partnership for feminist organizations and groups with the leadership of local authority and local community leaders.
5- Strengthening the relationship of feminist organizations with women in the local community.
6- Supporting feminist organizations and focusing on supporting emerging organizations.
7- Support the local initiatives for women for peace.

Asmahan AL-Eryani talked about funding and its impact on the reality of women

She began her talk with an introduction on the humanitarian situation in Yemen since the outbreak of the war in 2015, and how Yemen became the worst global humanitarian disaster, with the war destroying the rest of the infrastructure and the lack of basic services, oil products and energy sources, millions of Yemenis have been displaced at home and abroad, and three-quarters of Yemenis are believed to be in need of humanitarian assistance.

She referred to the amount of financial support that Yemen had received under humanitarian assistance despite the considerable amounts raised, the situation was increasing as the conflict lasted. The first fund-raising conference for Yemen in 2017 was a similar success. The United Nations says 94 percent of its appeals (1.1 billion) have been fulfilled.

The United Nations has appealed to the international community to provide approximately $3 billion to meet humanitarian needs for the year 2018. These were regarded as huge amounts, but the United Nations coordinated funding plan accounts for only half of all the assistance pledged for Yemen. It is estimated that $4 billion was saved during 2018. It also reached $2.9 billion in 2019, in 2020; the United Nations raised only $1.3 billion for the largest world's humanitarian work which its goal was to raise 2.4 billion dollars. In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic cast shadows, a virtual conference was held in which has announced to provide $1,350 billion out of $2.4 million that was estimated by the United Nations to fund the humanitarian response plan in Yemen from June to December 2020. And at the conference that Sweden and Switzerland hosted last March to raise $3.4 billion, the same amount that was targeted last year and it didn't receive only $1.7 billion, the least that the country needed to avoid famine, as expressed by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who expressed disappointment that he regards this as a down payment that it couldn't cover half of Yemeni food and medicine needs, Since the start of the war in 2015, Yemen has received almost 11 billion, although it doesn't cover the Yemeni people needs for aids, however, the way this assistance is distributed has not been efficient of reach deserved categories, Local economists have argued that this aid has not worked to develop the productive sector in Yemen, thus contributing to the continued need for the categories, and this is the thing that rejected after more than six years for providing these aids.

The embargo and the complications have also contributed to the distribution of those grants because they don't reach eligible groups and their loss due to the administrative and financial corruption of some organizations, which make one of the foreign ministers of the sponsor's countries of the peace process in Yemen classify that the plight of the Yemeni people in Yemen as man-made.

Then she went on to draw a glimpse of feminist organizations and initiatives and their role in humanitarian response and pressure for peace in Yemen, and how, unfortunately, even before the ongoing conflict in 2015, Yemen ranked last among the 142 countries in the gender gap index, and it's an indicator issued by the World Economic Forum. Women and girls have experienced high rates of underage marriages, low political representation, extreme poverty and unemployment. Nevertheless, women and youth formed the head of the harpoon the uprising that happened in 2011.

Since 94, feminist organizations and initiatives have played a major leadership role in the empowerment, qualification and training of women, creating community mobility in the importance of involving women and giving them their rights, such as the Yemen Women's Union, the Young Leaders Foundation and the Arab Forum for Human Rights, and as a result of the recent outbreak of war in Yemen, most feminist organizations have shifted their development activities to the activity of relief and emergency response, and they have played a significant role in humanitarian operations, although they don't have sufficient experience, in the field, many feminist organizations have been able to reach out to categories affected by armed conflict and provide humanitarian assistance in all conflict-affected governorates. Many women were at risk during their humanitarian work, in February 2018, the heroine Reham AL-Bader was cited, she's a community activist and head of one of the organizations in Taiz city, and she is doing one of her humanitarian work, a feminist group in the city itself was able to press the opening of roads and humanitarian corridors, a group of women activists and politicians are also trying to press for the opening of the corridors and main roads in Taiz city, and many women have participated in prisoner exchange deals between the parties of the war and they have provided many professional initiatives to stop the war in Yemen and bring about peace, Where the Yemeni Women Pact introduced more than 13 initiatives to stop the war and the Women Solidarity represented by the path to peace presented the Feminist Peace Road Map, which received much debate and local enrichment and states, and other initiatives such as the Southern Women's Network, the Women in Politics Network, the Nine Feminist Network and other initiatives.

Here, she pointed out that the feminist effort had not received much care and support, as women were still far from the fund that the donors provide annually and feminist organizations aren't actively involved in the preparation of humanitarian plans to absorb such grants and monitoring the needs of those organizations in those plans and doesn't fund their ongoing activities in protection and reducing gender-based violence, where women's financial inclusion has significant development implications such as more inclusive and sustained growth through higher levels of productive investment, it will therefore require availability to access financial support and services for feminist organizations and initiatives.

She concluded with a set of recommendations

1- Settlement of humanitarian action.
2- Adoption and activate the National Plan for Resolution 1325, funding its activities, which will enhance the financial inclusion of humanitarian organizations and initiatives in Yemen.
3- Providing flexible funding for a wide range of protection activities, including the reduction and response to gender-based violence, child protection, and the consolidation of protection data through vulnerability assessments, which have also been used to prioritize cash assistance.
4- Establishment of an oversight entity of the civil society organizations (alliance) to monitor the distribution of financial grants and humanitarian assistance and to promote the issue and transparency of grants to Yemen.

Hussain AL-Suhaily talked about challenges/risks for donors and local organizations - based on the needs and priorities of communities.
He began by talking about the increase in violence against women and girls brought about by war, by blowing up the small gains made in women's rights and girls' education, protecting women and girls, threatening efforts to rebuild peace and stability in Yemen, and how women and girls face special suffering.
He noted how the war had led to the displacement of more than 4 million people, and the UNFPA confirm that half of the displaced were women, and that 27 per cent of them were under 18, while 31 per cent of Yemen's girls were still out of school, more than 1 million women are malnourished and more than the other 1 million are vulnerable to complications, where a case woman's death is recorded every two hours, only 20 per cent of health facilities that provide its  services in maternal and child.

The escalation of the conflict and its humanitarian consequences have also weakened the position of women and girls in Yemeni society, where parental, tribal and religious discrimination has worsened, Gender-based violence has increased dramatically, violations and abuses against women's rights have reached a level of gravity and threat that Yemen has never experienced before.
Women humanitarian workers, peace-building and human rights defenders are exposed to different types of security violations, risks and threats, leaving them alone and unable to continue to assist their communities, this has resulted in almost total erosion of women's protection mechanisms and increased vulnerability to violence and abuse.

Despite the efforts of international and local organizations in addressing violence against women and girls in conflict areas, needs are increasing, violence is worsening and constraints, challenges and risks are compounded in the work of organizations most notably:

1- International and local organizations have difficulty implementing programs and projects focusing on gender and targeting youth and women, or seeks to contribute to peace with various challenges and obstacles, spearheaded by the suspension and obstruction of (the High Council for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) in Sana'a and the local authorities authorizing these projects and activities. The Council also requires civil society organizations to obtain permits for any activity they wish to undertake, such as training courses and workshops.
2- International and local organizations are subjected to a hostile campaign in media and religious platforms in areas under the control of the Houthis (Ansar Allah), which see the organizations' work as implementing of foreign agendas, and targeting of religious values, conservative tribal customs values, especially interventions focused on gender, youth and peacebuilding.
3- Obstruction of the parties to the conflict and hampered the protection networks in key areas, and access by organizations to survey local communities needs has been restricted.
4- Issues of gender-based violence remain marginal and in a culture of silence, owing to a lack of awareness about rights, and insecurity and armed clashes, difficulty in providing legal assistance, and lack of protection services.
5- Much of the funding available for humanitarian response in Yemen focuses heavily on short-term relief. The response to violence against women and girls don't receive adequate resources.
6- Lack of accurate data and adequate reporting by victims of the cases of gender-based violence for security factors and of fear of social implications and the stigma in the absence of adequate enough protection procedures for victims at the time of and after the reporting.

1- Allocate adequate resources to effectively respond to violence against women and girls and use these resources to ensure that the risk of gender-based violence is reduced.
2- Donors should support national partners through multi-year funding agreements that allow time to strengthen capacity and improve service delivery, and also strengthening the role of organizations led by women and Yemeni civil society in maintaining the provision of services when international funding ends.
3- International and national organizations should involve local authorities, security personnel and mosque sermons in awareness-building activities and programmes, understanding gender-based violence and the vital importance of addressing impunity. Community members, including parents, teachers and girls themselves should be brought together in education sessions, and while it may take some time to change attitudes and perceptions, it is possible as long as the trainers and facilitators are from the same communities and they are trusted personalities.
4- Implementation by United Nations agencies and organizations of Security Council resolution 1325, which calls for greater participation of women and gender mainstreaming in all United Nations efforts that it does in order towards peace and security.
5- Allocation of 30 per cent in-country and national coordination groups and Inter-Agency Standing Committee working in Yemen for women and local women-led organizations.
6- Increased funding for economic empowerment programs and projects especially for rural women, to address poverty, gender equality and mental ill-health as structural drivers and as a product of violence against women and girls.
7- Support proposals by local organizations specific to women's entrepreneurship in Yemen that will enable them to acquire life and professional skills and establish their innovative enterprises.
8- Establishment of centres to provide programs and services in response to gender-based violence, as well as expansion of women's and girls' friendly spaces.
9- Addressing the special needs of adolescent girls living in vulnerable conditions through prevention and response programmes appropriate to the age group, also integrated responses across the education, health and protection sectors.
10- Capacity development of local organizations; to generate creative solutions to meet the needs of women in Yemen, and to strengthen partnerships among all organizations with different possibilities and sizes.
11- Preparation of an advocacy strategy to sensitize the governments of Aden and Sana'a and local parties of the conflict to the essential role of civil society in providing basic services, humanitarian assistance and addressing the needs of women.
12- Strengthening the capacities of local organizations and humanitarian workers to respond to issues of gender-based violence.
13- Integration of gender in preparation and planning, for all stages of post-conflict recovery and reconstruction; so that commitment and action are made to implement the women's quota no less than 30%.
14- Formation of advocacy and lobbying networks to defend women's rights and civil causes.
15- Pressure on the governments of Sana'a and Aden and the de facto authorities, urge them to abide by international humanitarian law during hostilities and cooperate with organizations to prepare communities for taking protection programs, and removing obstacles limiting their delivery to needy women and girls, facilitating the work of organizations and developing measures to collect data, and taking effective measures to address the violence practised by security agencies against women.
16- Support for the local civil society organization initiative to settle humanitarian action in Yemen, where civil society provides free space for women to take a leading role and the active participation in building their homelands at all levels. It is also that local organizations are also the most capable to reach the weak communities and categories, and understanding local conditions, policies and the prevailing local culture deep understanding.

After finishing the presentation of the axes, the floor was opened for the interventions for the attendees, which was as follows:

Takia Noman: feminist activity has expanded and we've reached access to international organizations abroad, but at the level of reality, representation and decision-making positions, women still a voice and they have no real representation in decision-making, Are we as women we miss the strategy of working together, despite possibilities and skills, where's the glitch?
There are billions of dollars coming from abroad as support, where is women's share of these finances?

The level of education among women and girls has declined, and that's a serious indicator, there's significant corruption in the level of funding and its distribution, What's to do to address these issues?

Noria AL-Garmozi:  The presentation made by Professor Asmahan at the elite level, There's activity-level hacking carried out and that are far from real and don't touch the needs of women.The war from all sides in Yemen, and despite their differences, they agree on the exclusion and marginalization of women, even at the level of education.
Amounts mentioned in the special axe of the funding side, we know that more than half of it goes to administration costs for organizations that receive these funds, where's the woman's share of it?

Anda Hassan: What are the actions that we, as women, are supposed to present as Yemeni women on the real ground to enforce the real role of women with the parties to the conflict in accordance with the strategies of the National Committee for Women?
The funds and billions which are mentioned at the Donors Conference in the funding of organizations in feminism support in the country, Is there's real monitoring from women leaders, not in women's programs but in-service programs for the homeland in general, which are reflected in women as part of the community system?

Misk AL-Maqrami: There's a huge support for big women's organizations. Why don't support small organizations that work to develop marginalized women? There are more than 1,200 marginalized women suffering from ignorance, poverty and lack of habilitation.

Asmahan: Administrative and financial corruption is the most enemy of what's happening in Yemen, more than 11 billion dollars through six years nearly, that will make a new structure. It is possible to pay the stopped salaries of the State employees for years.

There is no governmental watchdog, as a result of multiple governments and political dispersion between two governments and two bodies in Sana'a and Aden.
But what can be done is the existence of a mechanism for oversight and accountability by civil society organizations monitoring these funds, it reveals where the funding goes. There was an earlier initiative, but it suddenly disappeared.
And civil society organizations can play through lobbying and advocacy to mitigate the size of financial and administrative corruption in humanitarian assistance.

Dr. Aref AL-Hag: The women's movement needs an evaluation mechanism and the role of women's civic organizations must be activated the principle with accountability and transparency, one of the structural constraints facing the Yemeni feminism movement is the crisis of bridging the elite and Women's Grassroots.
Maha Awad: The issue of the feminism movement and the interdependence relation of strategic mutual support, support and solidarity in the context of women-led efforts are needed to be reassessed.

For example, the mechanism led by the United Nations envoy in dealing with the involvement of women in the advisory group led by the Office of the Envoy, responses about feminism movement and the situation of schizophrenia and isolation that they are living have deepened.

But the subject that related to feminism movement and its relationship with the active actors, whether the local authority leaders or even the parties to the Yemeni conflict, or even at the level of the coalition that leads the guardianship of the peace process.

I believe that all parties are unanimous in the exclusion of women and marginalizing their roles, women are in a struggle period to assert this role, but they need to bring back the levels of this struggle so as to create solidarity and recognition of what they are doing in terms of expanding relations with and among the community, as organizations and groups, our logic is forming pressure forces for change to reach peace, and empowering women of their rights and defending the issues of the women's agenda, security and peace.

Regarding the subject of the National Plan, I regret that when the Government approved the Plan with its shortcomings and what it is, it didn't determine a budget for it, That is, the Government has been stripped of any responsibility and it doesn't commit itself towards the bodies concerned with the implementation of this plan. It's been two years since this plan, which was approved in 2012 and it doesn't work by it, and there's a lot of bodies who don't know anything about it, and they're not familiar with its details.

Women are selected at the Feminist Summit, the number has been at the first top was 70 then 83 then100, There are criteria for participants in the feminist summit and they come within their choice, and we're committed to it.
Unfortunately, the National Commission for Women has not found any government commitment in restoring its status and consideration, and here we must address the Supreme Council for Women, the National Committee for Women is a professional executive advisory body to the Supreme Council, which is chaired by the Prime Minister. It has called for to be reactivated National Committee from the council of Ministry, but there is no positive response to this moment.
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A Workshop on the Role of Women in Mediation and Local Peacebuilding Process