Interviews with Men Supporting Women: Osamah Abdulsalam

This interview was conducted with Mr. Osamah Abdulsalam, a lawyer, human rights activist and researcher in the field of human rights and humanitarian law.
Initially, we would like to thank all of those, who are exerting efforts in this society, to assist and support women, who suffer and struggle to shape the way of their existence, especially under the constant conditions of war. The war exposes women to danger, not only on a personal level, including physical abuse and other kinds of ill treatment. In addition, women are a particular vulnerable group – particularly in the context of armed conflict – and though they are one half of society and present at all domestic levels, as they are mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, and nursemaids. Besides being caretakers, women are also managing their households – in times of prosperity, as well as in times of distress.
In the following part, we will talk about some pioneer feminists and women rights advocates, who have had prominent and impactful roles – not only within their personal lives – but also in the lives of others. Moreover, the below presented feminists have ideas that are rarely discussed at the moment, as the war has strong psychological impacts on our communities. Usually, stories of war suffering and frequent violence and abuse are dominating in public debates.
Finally, we also would like to thank all interviewees for the opportunity to discuss with them at full length, to understand the specific challenges and situations that women are facing in their roles at the individual, family, and community levels.
In this meeting, we have an excellent role model, whose career might inspire others. Today´s guest is the lawyer, Mr. Osamah Abdul Ellah Sallam Al Asbahi. He is a lawyer, human rights activist, and researcher in the field of human rights and international humanitarian law. He worked as a lecturer and trainer in the field of human rights, legal, democracy, and self-development. He has a master’s degree from the Institute of Arab Studies & Research in Cairo and he has released many publications on human rights and legal protection. Besides, he is the head of the Lawyers against Corruption Network and chairman of the Justice Establishment for Bar Consultation & Training.

First of all, we welcome you, Mr. Osamah. Thank you for your participation on the Yemeni Women's Voices Platform.
Welcome! I thank you for hosting me and for this introduction and I wish all the success for the Yemeni Women's Voices Platform. I am confident that this pioneering project, which includes a group of Yemeni men and women experts in the field of gender, led by Ms. Monia Thabet, will achieve positive results they are important contributors and supporters of women’s movement and promotion of organized and purposeful feminist work.

1- Regarding your activities in awareness raising of women’s rights and improving their community interactivity, can you tell us about some of your contributions, achievements, or work in this field? At the family level, can you mention some shining examples of how to support women to become role models for others?

Let me give you some examples of the achievements and contributions regarding the support and promotion of women’s rights and the development of their capabilities in society: we have adopted many courses, workshops, and seminars and conducted research on women’s rights, whether politically or legally. Furthermore, we were holding training courses to raise awareness of the personal status law for women, in addition to establishing a legal team to assist women in their cases in courts, prosecutions, and police departments. This has been achieved through the Justice Establishment for Bar Consultation & Training, which I am the head of. I also worked as a volunteer in some organizations, associations, and youth initiatives.
I further worked on establishing some programs and courses, targeting a large segment of women in several governorates. For example, we conducted courses in leadership, planning and building self-confidence, and improving self-management. We also conducted the program of "Know Your Rights to Protect Yourself", that educates women about their rights under international charters and national laws. This program has greatly contributed to enhancing awareness of women's rights and to developing their capabilities within their families and society. In addition, I was conducting several courses and workshops on women empowerment on the political level.  
I also contributed to supporting my sisters and my family to continue their education and to obtain their master’s degree. Today they are working in various fields and have many professions, such as doctors, teachers and housewives.

2-Due to the incidents that the country is witnessing, women are considered essential partners in supporting their families. In your opinion, how can men contribute to developing women’s capabilities to become active in safe environments and to surpass the traditional challenges imposed by the “masculine-oriented” society?
To successfully contribute to this aspect - especially because of the events taking place in our country – men must create equal opportunities for women in various fields of work. They need to improve and develop an appropriate work environment that is suitable for women. Generally, men need to give women a greater role in society and provide them with real opportunities. Men’s efforts should be serious, and not just empty claims in the media. Only then women will be able to play key roles in the renaissance of societies, by proving their abilities to make a positive change. Men´s contribution to the development of women’s capabilities -  as mentioned above - must be real and not fictitious and their support needs to include various domains. Men need to be dedicated and stand by the side of women in supporting them to create real change in society.
Men´s contribution to women´s rights will make a positive change in society and will enable women to fulfill their roles. Standing by the side of women in all events, should be a duty for men. By now, women already play a key role in building the family as they are the main caretakers of the home in general. Thus, women already carry a high responsibility as mothers. It is them who are actually raising the new generation. Therefore, men must abandon their narrow thinking that women should stay at home only. Instead, men need to push women into important roles of society. Men need to fight for achieving equal employment opportunities for women in all sectors, including the private sector, and help to ensure women´s full participation in community work.

3-From your point of view, what is the appropriate mechanism that men can utilize to support women's empowerment and enhance their interaction and participation on a political, economic, and social level?
I will talk frankly: within a patriarchal society, we firstly must abandon the view that hinders women to be leaders in various fields. This is the most important step that men need to take, in order to effectively support and empower women and to ensure their participation in society. In addition, men have to contribute to strengthening women's capabilities in the context of political, economic, social and cultural events, including the facilitation of administrative procedures and transactions for women to gain economic, political and social independence.
Men can contribute, by adopting programs to eliminate poverty in all its forms everywhere and by supporting forms of micro-financing for the most vulnerable groups, including women. SMEs can contribute by providing loans, loan guarantees and trainings to facilitate job opportunities and to bridge the gap between the professional and private life. It is important to adopt programs in all fields that are compatible with the specific needs of women. Men should work on achieving gender equality by making the inclusion of women and girls in society a priority. Moreover, advocacy is needed to amplify the voices of young people and to promote a peaceful, just and sustainable world. Eliminating violence against women contributes also to economic growth. On all levels, it is necessary for men to integrate the concepts of gender equality in the family and in society and to spread the importance of women empowerment and women´s rights.

4-How can men contribute to supporting the development of innovative solutions to promote gender equality?
Solutions must first be provided by the State and the organizations that are active in this field, through mutual cooperation and exchange. Secondly, men must also make serious contributions regarding the raising and upbringing of their sons and children, including an acknowledgement of their duties and the need for taking joint responsibility.
In addition, one of the innovative solutions to advance gender equality is to produce knowledge research on women's rights and gender equality. Based on this research, men can conduct awareness campaigns to raise awareness about the important roles of men, when it comes to achieving gender equality.

Studies confirm that gender inequality and discrimination, is a root cause and/or consequence of violence against women and girls. To counter this, it requires the existence of gender-sensitive policies and practices that respond to the conditions of our country and community problems.
5-How can advocacy and joint work between men and women create such policies? What are the tools and mechanisms that are required to get the support from families and society at large?
Advocacy and joint action between men and women can be done by referring to legal texts and laws that ensure women´s rights. It further requires to amend existing laws that discriminate women and to bring attention to legal texts that are not applied. In fact, their application must be in accordance with the constitution. In addition, social, economic, and cultural policies need to be adopted to create real change in various societal context. The issue of gender-based discrimination, needs to be addressed on all levels of society. As a matter of fact, the role of women is very important. The political support is necessary for an effective advocacy of women´s rights and their participation in the public life.

6-How to raise the awareness of society to not accept or tolerate violence against women and girls?
There should be awareness programs on violence against women and the respect for human rights. We need severe penalties for those who abuse women and we need to spread awareness about gender roles in society. Legal awareness programs are required, whether through the media, on the street, or at school and work, to encourage a culture of acceptance and mutual respect. Such programs also create an opportunity to talk about consent, financial independence, and gender accountability.

a-How to enhance the role of women so that they can make their own decisions?
Within this period, strengthening the role of women must be done through several axes: political empowerment, and strengthening women’s leadership roles, economic empowerment, social empowerment, and protection, in addition to the use of legislation, and by changing the culture of society towards women.

We thank you once again for your time and your insights!

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