Webinar Report: Challenges and Opportunities in Peace Building
Yemen is entering the seventh year of a war that has led the country to unimaginable suffering and devastation. The war has seriously affected all Yemenis – men, women and children, but Yemeni women and girls are the most affected.

Even before the war, Yemen faced alarming levels of gender inequality, and now ranks behind all global indicators for gender equality ( ). Out of 153 countries, Yemen is at the bottom of the list of the Global Gender Gap Index for 2020 and the last Arab country in the ranking established by the World Economic Forum ( ). The proportion of prejudices against women in the political dimension in Yemen reached 79% in the GSNI Social Norms Index for the year 2020 ( ). In addition to political life, women rights activists face also many challenges in the civic space, impeding women’s general participation in peacebuilding. In addition, women in local communities face social and cultural challenges as well as security challenges represented by extortion, gender-based violence and security risks.

The webinar on “Gender Challenges and Opportunities in Peacebuilding” comes as one of the activities of the Yemeni Women Voices platform. The webinar was implemented by a group of experts and activists in peacebuilding, to discuss the gender situation in Yemen, including the most important challenges and obstacles for women and the opportunities that can improve women´s role in peacebuilding.

Objective of the Report

The report reviews the outcomes of the webinar related to the most important obstacles and challenges that women are facing, as well as the opportunities that empower women to participate in social life and peacebuilding processes.

Webinar Axis

The webinar was carried out for two hours, during which the following topics were discussed:

•     Gender Challenges in Peacebuilding
-     Economic challenges: Education and Child Marriage
-    Infrastructure and unequal distribution of projects on the ground
-     Political challenges
-     Security challenges
•     Opportunities for women´s participation in peacebuilding and decision-making processes
•     Recommendations
•    Conclusion


The webinar was attended by 13 participants, among them women and youth activists who are interested in gender issues and women's participation in peacebuilding.

 Discussion Session Details

The session was held on October 19, 2021 via the Zoom application. At the beginning of the meeting, the facilitator of the session, Mr. Marwan Al-Shaibani, welcomed the guests and speakers at the webinar. Ms. Monia Thabet also introduced the Yemeni Women’s Voice platform and its goal. She further presented the goal of the webinar, which has been conducted in the frame of multiple activities of the platform, seeking to enhance the participation of women in various fields through research, knowledge transfer and interactive exchange.

After that, the facilitator Marwan introduced the speaker of the webinar, Ms. Mona Haitham:

Mona Said Haitham, a researcher in political science, specializing in the field of human rights and women’s rights. Head of the Partners Foundation and one of the engineers in the Yemeni feminist movement at the local level. She is currently representing this movement in Germany.

Gender challenges and obstacles in peacebuilding

The webinar started with a first session on Gender Challenges in Peacebuilding. Right from the beginning, Mona emphasized the importance of a comprehensive approach to tackle this topic. When talking about gender, it is important to also think about gender dynamics and the opportunities and challenges related to it.
Especially with regards to the ongoing conflict in Yemen, the discussion of gender dynamics becomes essential to find sustainable solutions for the peace process. Moreover, it is important to analyze the complex social beliefs and attitudes towards gender and gender roles in Yemen and the impact on the peace process.

Economic Challenges


When we talk about challenges that girls are facing in Yemen or in Arab countries generally, the difficulties begin from childhood. One striking example is the question of education and girls dropping out of basic education. Many people in Yemen do not understand the problem and consequences of the lack of education for girls. In contrast to boys, girls´ education is not considered a priority according to societal beliefs and this thinking further increased during the ongoing war.

Many families justify their girls´ dropout of school with their precarious financial and economic situation. As many families have multiple children it is difficult for them to finance the education of their offspring. Consequently, the (male) heads of the family often decide that the girls need to cease their education first and help instead with the housework. Many girls remain at home, knowing that their families did not support them to pursue their education. Mona confirms that this is a reality and a frequent topic in the context of her work.

Mona further added that in the Lahj governorate, parents were questioned about the reasons that their girls drop out of schools. A frequent response was that that the girls themselves preferred to stay at home, and that the parents did not actively prevent them from going to school. However, the parents pointed also to the difficult circumstances under the war and the respective financial and economic burden.

Additionally, Mona reported that in her meeting with members of the local authorities, including directors of education offices in Mesaimeer, Lawdar, and all the governorates of Lahj, Abyan and Aden, the question of girl´s education was raised as well. Concretely they were questioned for the reasons of the worsening situation related to girls´ education. The respective authorities stated that the problem began already from early childhood. The governorate offices themselves do not have enough budget to support the Girls' Education Fund. Growing up in poverty, many girls reach adolescence without any basic education. Furthermore, they grow up in a society that practices a culture of shame and the “protection of honor”. As a result, many women in the Yemeni society have not the tools nor the support to become more independent, economically but also socially.

Child Marriage

Child marriage is another negative phenomenon that has been on a rise since the outbreak of the war. Due to economical constraints, many families decide to marry their underage girls off to ease their financial burden. Mona added that underage marriage is in fact an old problem, but it increased during the war period. In fact, an estimated 70% of divorce cases are related to minor girls who were married for only some months. Child marriage presents thus a big challenge in the Yemeni society that needs to be tackled to advance women empowerment and the peacebuilding process at large.

If women were able to marry at a later age of maturity, they would have had already the opportunity to develop their own ideas and projects. This, as Mona stressed, would reflect also in society, with more women participating in political and social processes.

Infrastructure and unequal distributions of projects on the ground

A third aspect of challenges related to gender and peacebuilding are related to the implementation of women projects. Most organizations and associations that support and fund local projects have shifted from the development sector to emergency and rapid response projects. However, these projects are not accessible to everyone. Especially elderly women, who are also in high need of aid support, face obstacles in reaching the project sites.

Political challenges

When it comes to challenges of women’s participation in peacebuilding at the political level, Mona explained that the low participation rates of women in politics are a major problem. Leaders from different political parties refuse to sit with women at the same table to discuss political issues. Yet, there were also positive examples of the participation of women in peace negotiations, such as during the Kuwait, Geneva, and Stockholm negotiations.

Security challenges

Another important aspect is related to the challenges of women’s participation in the security sector. For instance, in the governorate of Aden, girls who have recently joined the security ranks were able to obtain more acceptance. However, institutions are failing to examine and act according to gender-specific criteria. Thus, there is no strategy from the Ministry of Defense to improve women´s integration and representation in the security sector.

Moreover, some institutions even started to dismiss their female workers. This happened especially in public and security services. Therefore, Mona stressed the importance to plan and conduct special projects and workshops to integrate women into the security corps and to strengthen Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security.

Opportunities for women´s participation in local peacebuilding and decision-making processes

The focal point of the second part of the webinar laid on the opportunities of women in peacebuilding processes. Women are structurally underrepresented in local political decision-making processes. Yet, it is important to strengthen women´s role in political decision making as they add valued experience and expertise. For instance, female decision makers, would be able to advocate for the importance of women´s education and female economic empowerment. Once economically empowered, more women would be able to participate in community conflict resolution at the local level.

Before the war, most men in Yemen supported the economic empowerment of women and it was socially accepted that women co-provided for the livelihood of the family. However, during the war the public opinion shifted to the promotion of a strict division of gender roles.

Thus, a participant of the webinar, Professor Taqiah Noman, added that the social injustice that girls ensure since childhood does not only include the deprivation of education. Additionally, most girls is brought up to be submissive and dependent towards male family members. Specific roles are determined for her, such as housework and care work. Women cannot free themselves from these responsibilities. The final question raised was how we (Yemeni society) can get rid of the injustice and stereotypical habits of depriving girls of education and early marriage?

To address this problem, Mona replied that the Ministry of Education should adopt a national action plan for educating girls, which would have auxiliary factors for them. A national action plan would help to tackle the roots of the problem, that led to the deprivation of girls from education. In fact, the government was working on such a plan, but the war stopped interrupted these efforts.  Another way to support women, is to create a safe environment at the family-, community-, and national level. The government should also work on designing an organizational strategy that accommodates the financial, social, and security conditions, to effectively contribute to the education and encouragement of girls to enroll in schools. Finally, the government needs to raise awareness in the community and explain why such a plan is needed, to gain the trust and support of the people.

As for the concept of education, the government must issue laws that oblige parents to enroll girls in schools.

In some cases, families receive financial assistance, so the girl are allowed to attend school. However, more sustainable solutions must be found that help improving the family’s financial condition, such as finding job opportunities for the head of the family. Moreover, parents need to be sensibilized for the importance of their girls´ education.

One participant raised the question if the state can enact laws that compel parents to bring girls to school. Mona replied that the constitution itself stipulates already the right to education. Existing national and local strategies need to be combined in joint efforts by (legal) experts, educators and community activists to counter stereotypical gender roles and the negative gender dynamics that are resulting from the first.   

In the end of the second session, Marwan raised another question related to the changing perception of women´s roles during the war and the potential of projects related to women´s economic empowerment. He asked for a way to build on the positive changes and to strengthen women´s participation in peacebuilding processes further.

Monia replied that the negative changes were mainly a result of the war conditions and can be thus perceived as a temporary change with Yemeni´s society. If economic empowerment projects are sustainable, there are great chanced that these women would become also more active and present in political activities. To achieve this, businessmen need to support the cause of women empowerment, in order to create a safe environment that accepts the management and engagement of women in the labor market.

Session Recommendations

The webinar on challenges and opportunities of gender in peacebuilding concluded with a set of results and recommendations. The most important are the following:

-  Developing a national plan that focuses on gender in peacebuilding. It should be developed by experts, legal experts, educators, community activists, as well as international and local organizations and stakeholders.
-  Designing special projects and workshops to integrate women into the security corps and to promote Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, which would contribute to enhancing women's participation in the peacebuilding process.
-  Rebuilding the education system in a way that enhances and encourages girls’ participation in schools, especially in rural areas, in order to improve girls’ and women’s enrollment rates in schools and literacy centers, and thus their ability to make decisions and participate in peacebuilding.
-  Conducting more studies and research to ascertain the extent of conflict-driven changes to gender roles, and to monitor and track new dynamics of women's participation in peacebuilding in different governorates, and at different demographic and educational levels.
-  Supporting rural women and enhancing their participation in local politics and peacebuilding processes.
-  Encouraging men’s participation in supporting women, whether economically or politically, as they are partners in the peacebuilding and development process.
-  Encouraging sustainable economic projects for women, instead of focusing on emergency and rapid response, as the presence of women in an enabling economic environment that is easily accessible to participate in the peace-building process in society.


At the end of the session, the facilitator Marwan thanked the speaker, Ms. Mona Haitham, the project coordinator and the attendees, for all that was reviewed and discussed during the session. He stressed again on the importance of such webinars and conferences. Therefore, the series is planned to be extended to a series of further discussions on subjects such as: women’s participation in the upcoming settlement processes, women’s participation in peace and reconstruction processes, the role of women’s alliances in promoting gender, rehabilitation of war-affected women, and other topics that enhance women participation at the local and national level in the upcoming period.

Ms. Mona concluded that it is important to invest further into technologies that contributes to the spreading of knowledge and creates thus awareness among youth and women. Social media platforms further create virtual spaces for them to discuss and exchange experiences about gender and the role of women in social and political life. In addition, such meetings must continue and target policy makers in order to convey the voices of women to the higher structures in decision-making and to create fundamental changes. The aim is to develop a strategy to implement gender equality on all levels and in all areas of society: in the educational, health, economical and governmental sector.
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