Interviews with Men Supporting Women: Yahia Al-Dhobaibi
This interview was conducted with Mr. Yahia Al-Dhobaibi, a writer, journalist, trainer and human rights activist.
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 another role model with us: our distinguished guest and journalist Mr. Yahya Al Dhobaibi. He is known for his calm and serious work, as well as for his ambition and luminous spirit of morals, professionalism, and humility. He acquired a distinguished position in the media and cultural circles. Besides, he has enjoys a prominent position in the community.
Mr. Al-Dhobaibi is a writer, journalist, trainer, and civil and human rights activist. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Media Journalism from the Faculty of Media of the Sana’a University and he is currently completing his postgraduate studies in the field of journalism at the College of Media. Besides, he has conducted research and studies in various fields, that adds to his important work as a journalist.

First, we welcome you, Mr. Yahya, and we thank you for participating in the Yemeni Women’s Voices Platform.

Welcome! Thank you for hosting me and for this introduction. I wish all the best for Yemeni Women’s Voices Platform. I am confident that this pioneering project, which includes a group of Yemeni women experts in the field of gender, led by Ms. Monia Hassan, will achieve positive results.

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?

For now, I would not like to speak of “achievements” as my efforts are rather contributions and we are still at the beginning of the road. I hope that these efforts will be followed by more effective and influential achievements on the family and societal level.
I have worked hard in this aspect through media and awareness raising campaigns, addressing important issues in the media in the form of in-depth reports and journalistic investigations. I also worked within media rooms dedicated to gender equality, and I contributed to the preparation and arrangement of these projects. Thus, I participated in journalistic topics, as well as in global campaigns related to women rights, such as the “Her Story” initiative to involve young people in promoting gender equality. Awareness raising of women’s leadership and the contribution to human development can be achieved by supporting women’s representation on the internet. In addition to the above stated contributions, I was involved in the preparation and participation of workshops, seminars and panel discussions, that delt with various issues related to women’s and children’s rights. Moreover, I was also participating in trainings in the field of gender monitoring, to learn about the importance of documenting violations, participation and coverage of women, peace and security issues. Professional journalism is a necessity for a positive comparison of women in the media. Increased media coverage of related issues, such as gender-based violence and other gender sensitive aspects advocate for women and their rights on the one hand, and their effective participation in society and their empowerment in various fields on the other hand.

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?
I think that this topic is of great importance. However, the question should rather address how to combine efforts to contribute to the development of women's capabilities and the integration of official and societal levels. Especially with regards to the frightening indicators of local and international reports which highlight the fact that women are among the most affected groups of the war. In fact, one million women and 5.5 million girls received humanitarian assistance during the year 2021, according to the Yemen Humanitarian Needs Overview.
The number of displaced people is estimated to be more than 4 million people, with 70% of them are women and children. About 30% of the displaced families are currently headed by women, compared only to 9% before 2015.
The poverty rate among families headed by women increased to about 72.0% at the rural level, compared to 58.2% among families headed by men. In urban areas, the poverty rate among families headed by reached 20.1%, according to the reports of the Central Statistical Organization in April 2021.
According to the United Nations Population Fund, the number of families headed by women nationwide is 416 thousand, representing 11.4% of the total rural families, and 142 thousand in urban areas, representing 12.1 of the total urban families. In addition, 50,000 married women have lost their husbands.  During the five years of the war, 50,000 families were without a breadwinner, and this number has doubled exponentially with the passage of more than seven years since the war so far.
In addition to the above stated information, it is important to point out another dilemma that women are facing: they have to take care of those who hot disabled during the war.
These numerous challenges increased the burden of responsibility for women and girls in Yemen. Therefore, joint cooperation, attention and is needed to develop women's capabilities at the official and community levels. This is crucial to overcome the above stated challenges.
Regarding the question of what is needed to overcome the traditional obstacles imposed by the “masculinity of society”, it is necessary to create conditions for an appropriate environment. We need to invest in changing society’s vision, convincing people of the importance of women’s participation, especially during the times of war. Furthermore, we need to ensure that women´s participation remains enrooted in the culture also after the war. Despite the difficult circumstance, women have proven their ability at work and many studies confirm that women's economic empowerment creates long-term social benefits. In fact, women tend to reinvest up to 90% of their income on their families. Thus empowering women's economic growth in the post-war period is fundamental for ensuring continuous peace and stability.
Women must also be encouraged to undertake self-initiatives to establish income-generating projects. This requires better access to micro-financing and the financial support for the launch of small projects through cash assistance. Furthermore, the implementation of short and long-term training programs is necessary as well as awareness raising and continuous education.
Men carry a big responsibility in narrowing the gap imposed by the war. The escalation of violence have further decreased women´s economic opportunities. Thus, men need to support the adoption of programs that aim to rehabilitate women, teaching them crafts and enabling them to establish an income-generating business. Men also need to raise awareness within their communities about the importance of women empowerment. This also includes facilitating women´s movement and participation in the public sphere and actively decreasing any risks that may befall women. This is especially important, as women are more vulnerable to violence in the context of war and conflict. The complex social discriminations make women dependent on others for assistance, this must be combated.

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?
This topic may not be adequately answered through these interviews, as it needs scientific studies, conferences, seminars, and discussions. Despite the efforts that have been made in this aspect, the topic still needs more attention. I am talking here about the situation of our country, which is one of the countries that are not committed to empowering women and their participation in decision-making. This stands against the trend of most other nations, that shifted their policies following the adoption of the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing 1995), which emphasized the necessity of women’s participation in decision-making processes.
There is a close connection between women’s political, economic and social participation in decision-making and the successful process of democratic transformation and political security and stability within a given country. This correlation is also important in the context of war and conflict, as many female leaders have demonstrated their great political and administrative skills in the peacebuilding process. Enhancing women´s political and social opportunities is important to advance the peacemaking process. This has been conformed in many other international cases. Women are perfectly capable to contribute to the preservation and cohesion of the social fabric. Therefore, our society needs to respect human rights and apply a correct and equal understanding of citizenship.
It is necessary to build pressure groups that work in favor of women's political empowerment, who are able to counter the tendency of chronic exclusion that has been practiced by the majority of all parties to the conflict.
In addition to the government's responsibility, international institutions, especially the United Nations and its subsidiary organizations, should support women's empowerment and their political participation.
Furthermore, the matter is not limited to the political level only, but the focus must be on the societal level as well. Many cases and studies have revealed important facts, confirming that a good understanding of the concept of women’s political participation is achieved through three approaches: 1) the gender approach, 2) the development approach - or what has become known as the humanization of development - and 3) the human rights approach.
To enhance the leadership role of women, attention must be paid to supporting the concepts of human rights and citizenship. Moreover, we need to promote values, such as the acceptance of the other and to create more awareness of international conventions related to women’s rights and the respective legislative tools. Finally, we need more trainings and qualifications for women to support them in reaching leadership positions.
Emphasis must be placed on the need to strengthen the role of women at the family level and to allow them to make their own decisions. From the family level, women empowerment will automatically reach the public level as well. A society that does not consider the issue of discrimination between both sexes from early childhood, produces a generation that is distorted and disabled in its thinking and awareness. As a matter of fact, women´s roles need to be strengthened within the family as well as within the school.
The importance of engaging women and girls actively in education is important and requires a reform of the curricula, that must be compatible with the culture of human rights. This applies for university education and postgraduate studies as well.
Accordingly, political empowerment cannot take place unless attention is paid to social aspects, such as education, health, and general equality at all stages of the child´s socialization.
In addition, we can add the importance of spreading a culture of gender sensibility. Providing psychological and social support to women, enables them to cope with their pressure and responsibilities in a better way. It also encourages women to enhance their self-confidence and allows them to succeed and to participate in the political field without fear or doubts. These measures would all contribute to preparing a generation of women capable of making and influencing tangible achievements.

4-    How can men contribute to supporting the development of innovative solutions to promote gender equality?
The United Nations asserts that gender equality is not only a basic human right, but also essential to achieving peace in societies. It is also a requirement for societies to unleash their full potential. Thus, empowering women has been shown to stimulate productivity and economic growth.
Gender equality became part of the international human rights law under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948, which recognized that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, and that everyone is entitled to all rights.” The declaration further prohibits discrimination of any kind, regardless of someone’s  race, sex, language, religion, birth, or any other status.
The term gender equality refers to the social roles and relationships between men and women and includes the various responsibilities of women and men in a particular culture or location. In contrast to the gender of women and men, which is determined biologically, the gender roles of women and men are socially shaped. These roles can change over time and vary according to geographic locations and social contexts.
The United Nations currently focuses on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Plan that it recently developed. The Sustainable Development Plan consists of 17 goals (“SDGs”). The fifth goal targets "achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls", known as a stand-alone goal, due to its importance. Increasing the awareness for the importance of gender equality can be achieved through different means, such as the organization of awareness campaigns, the support of youth initiatives, and the strengthening of capacites within civil society to implement further programs on gender equality. Involving men and boys in efforts to achieve gender equality is crucial. There are different ways for men to take initiative, such as doing research and learning about women’s rights and gender equality. Another way would be to implement masculinity and gender workshops for fathers, to encourage them to take joint responsibility with mothers in raising their children with a focus on a culture of equality.
In order to engage men as partners, their involvement needs to be supported from political parties and media platforms. Therefore, decision makers and community leaders, must also be encouraged and involved, through awareness campaigns about gender and cultural norms. Thereby, they can be urged to oppose any unfair behaviors against women.
Emphasis must be placed on capacity building in the field of gender sensibility. This includes a critical reflection of the prevailing culture and the active change of misconception. This can be achieved by paying attention to the language, and by establishing practices and behaviors to support gender equality within a comprehensive strategic framework.

5-    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.

a-    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?
It is essential to point out some steps that can be taken and some steps that have been already taken on a national and international level. Firstly, the implementation of advocacy campaigns by civil society is necessary to involve men and women in the topic of gender equality and women rights. It is equally important to involve the government and local representatives and authorities in workshops and group discussions. Ideally, this will lead to the development of non-discriminatory bills and provide a legal framework, guaranteeing gender equality. The change of legislation needs to be followed by advocacy campaigns to promote the effective application of these laws.
For running successful advocacy campaigns, preparatory measures need to be taken into consideration. Starting with framing these campaigns and formulating the targeted outcomes. Moreover, it is relevant to choose strategies and to carefully plan for the actual implementation as well as for the monitoring and evaluation procedures after the implementation, to measure the success.
Additionally, all people, namely women, girls, youth, and other marginalized groups, should be empowered and granted the eligibility to obtain their rights. Therefore, men need to be involved in raising awareness about national and international strategies related to gender equality.
Such strategies must be sensitive to the specifies of our country and society. Therefore, a careful analysis is needed to study the various ways in which gender inequality overlaps with other criteria that lead to increased discrimination or vulnerability, such as age, ability, sexual orientation, etc.

b-    How to raise the awareness of society to not accept or tolerate violence against women and girls?
This can be performed by applying civic laws and respecting the concepts of citizenship and human rights in general, including the erasure of stereotypical images of women. This can be achieved through the traditional media and social media sites, or through civil society activities.
Women themselves also need to be aware of their rights and gain self-confidence to get out of the constraints of traditional roles imposed by the culture, customs, and traditions of society.
Civil society organizations have a major role in this task because of their ability to connect between citizens and between the State. They can thus shape the values that support women rights. In other words, they must play a vital role in intensifying awareness trainings, programs and activities that address gender-based violence and its negative impact at the individual- and the community level.
In this context, it is necessary to coordinate between institutions and parties involved in women issues. In a coordinated manner, they can organize workshops, conduct research on women’s issues and eliminate the culture of discrimination, marginalization and violence practiced against women.
Governments hold a great responsibility in the elimination of gender-based violence. They need to address the root causes that inflict violence and gender equality, such as unemployment, poverty, high crime rates, drug abuse. They should also change the legislation and policies that promote gender equality and human rights, in addition to developing programs for preventing violence, and strengthening rules and relations based on equality between men and women.

6.    How to enhance the role of women so that they can make their own decisions?
 Enhancing the role of women in obtaining their rights begins with changing the dominant culture which is based on masculinity. Therefor we need to reshape awareness, and change the public opinion that commonly refers to some religious texts and interprets them in a wrong context.
As I previously mentioned, women's liberation starts within the family by the adaption of family laws, that ensure full citizenship and enable women to obtain their rights and empower them to make their own decisions. Secondly, schools play a major role in women empowerment as their rights can be addressed within the curricula. Thus, stereotypical images against women could be addressed, art education courses and other activities can contribute in providing a safe atmosphere for the integration of equal roles and responsibilities between male and female students.
Many male and female researchers stress the importance of “feminist inclusion” in the overall structure of society, particularly in the project of change. The gender-based segregation within the social entity and the political system inflicts a culture of discrimination, prevailing on all societal levels. This further reinforces the logic of masculine privileges and domiance, making the issue a conflict between both sexes.
Moreover, female activists play a key role in promoting other women´s voices – especially from the countryside – that usually do not reach the media. Women activists can contribute by searching for obstacles that prevent other women from obtaining their rights in decision-making positions, whether at the local or the private level.
First and foremost, women must believe in themselves and in their abilities. They need to gain confidence in themselves and believe in the legitimacy of their rights and in the necessity of their active participation in public affairs.

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