Although Yemeni women won the right to vote more than 50 years ago, their economic, social and cultural rights remain limited, and the country has registered the widest gender gap in the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has posed a new threat to women, who have been more vulnerable despite all measures taken to protect them. Today, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) and UN Women in Iraq and Yemen launched three studies which assess the impact of COVID-19 on the social, political and economic situation of women in Yemen, during an event held in Aden and online.
The studies are aimed at supporting the Government of Yemen and various stakeholders in addressing the challenges that women face and increasing the effectiveness of efforts towards gender equality in all sectors, in the era of COVID-19 and beyond. The studies provide actionable recommendations to empower women in the society and the economy, and increase their political participation.
“Women continue to be excluded from decision-making processes related to the COVID-19 pandemic response and peacebuilding in the country. Women’s organizations and activists are still demanding their inclusion and participation in these processes,” said Nada Darwazeh, Director of the ESCWA Centre for Women.
“The three studies that we are launching today highlight the importance of ensuring women’s participation in all reconciliation and peacebuilding processes, and establishing a quota for women in senior government and leadership positions. Discrimination against women remains a major obstacle to the development path,” she added.
On behalf of Dina Zorba, the representative of UN Women for Iraq and Yemen, Zehra Sariaslan said that “the pandemic has brought deeper and more widespread suffering among the people in Yemen. This has also affected women’s political participation, economic activities and social protection systems in the country in a significant way.”
She also stressed the importance of the studies and added that UN Women would continue to support other member States, international non-governmental organizations and international organizations, and coordinate efforts to identify and overcome obstacles impeding the advancement of women’s political, social and economic status in Yemen. Sariaslan concluded by praised the strength and commitment of Yemeni women, stressing that “there is promising progress, as Yemeni women seize every opportunity to contribute to peacebuilding, revitalizing dialogue, and helping their country out of this dark tunnel. We will continue to support them.”
The first study on the impact of social protection policies responding to COVID-19 on gender equality in Yemen examines the increased risks and vulnerabilities that women from different social groups have encountered during the pandemic. It also suggests solutions, such as providing more financial and in-kind assistance while creating small projects that would lead women to self-sufficiency. The study also recommends that public services be integrated and that complementarity among government agencies and with civil society organizations be ensured.
The second study, tackling the impact of the conflict and COVID-19 on women’s political participation and engagement in peace negotiations and peacebuilding, urges decision makers to acknowledge that securing women’s rights within the family is a determining factor of social acceptance of women’s participation in the public and political spheres. It also stresses the importance of providing them with the required power and resources to enable them to carry out their intended functions.
Addressing the impact of COVID-19 on the economic participation of women in Yemen, the third study presents solutions to support women’s entrepreneurship through low-cost financing programmes, increased incentives, subsidized loans, financial inclusion, tax reduction and skills development support for small and medium businesses.