SEATTLE, Washington — Citizens in Yemen have suffered immensely since the war humanitarian crisis began in 2014. At least 10,000 civilians have died from the war, and about 14 million people are on the verge of starvation. One unique solution that could help repair some of this damage is helping women to be more politically involved in Yemen’s government. This article provides some background information about the war in Yemen and the humanitarian crisis along with some insights on how women can repair Yemen.
The War and Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen
Tensions between the Northern and Southern areas of Yemen have affected the country for years. Corruption, poverty, food insecurity and militant attacks have plagued Yemen, The country’s president, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, has struggled with resolving these issues. Government leaders and non-government forces have clashed in order to regain control of the country, but it had disastrous effects in late 2014 when President Hadi was overthrown by the Houthi Shia Muslim rebel movement.
After the Houthis takeover, Saudi Arabia and eight other countries (with the support of major countries like the U.S. and U.K.) attacked the Houthis group in Yemen, hoping to place the president back in power. These attacks have only worsened living conditions for Yemians, leaving more than 22 million civilians in need humanitarian aid. So far, no peace agreements have been reached, and it is Yemen’s civilians who are suffering.
How Women and Children are Affected
The women and children in Yemen have been impacted in a different way compared to others in the country. Because many men have been killed or injured in the war, women have had to take on their husband or fathers roles in their families. This means that wives and young daughters are the primary caregivers for their families along with being the providers.
With this extra burden, women and children make up 76 percent of the internally displaced people, and about three million women and young girls are at risk of gender-based violence. Child marriage rates have also increased to about 66 percent in Yemen. This humanitarian crisis has had a disproportionate effect on women and young girls.
How Women Can Repair Yemen
Although women and young girls have paid the price for the war and humanitarian crisis in Yemen, they do not have much of a voice when it comes to political affairs. Globally, women are vastly underrepresented in political processes. According to Melanne Verveer in Foreign Policy, “women make up only 2 percent of mediators, 5 percent of witnesses and signatories and 8 percent of negotiators.” This underrepresentation is especially dangerous in countries like Yemen where women and young girls are affected the most by poverty and times of war.
Research shows that when women are more involved in political decisions, there is an increase in the probability of a lasting agreement. The study analyzed 82 different agreements negotiated by women, of which 42 were armed conflicts. It has also been proven that when gender equality is implemented, there are lower rates of conflict within and between other countries.
Lastly, it has been shown that when women are elected into some form of political office, issues such as healthcare, education, social protection and sanitation are all considered as priorities. These issues are taken more seriously when women are elected into office because these are problems that affect women and young children most.
Yemen Activist Rasha Jarhum
Rasha Jarhum is a Yemeni activist who believes women’s rights should be taken more seriously in Yemen and that it could potentially solve a few issues. She currently resides in Geneva, having fled Yemen after the war began in 2014. However, she still addresses numerous issues in Yemen. Jarhum is a founder of the Peace Track Initiative, a program that creates a space for the contributions of women, youth and civil society organizations to discuss peace processes.
She was quoted by the Nobel Women’s Initiative about the importance of the role that women play, especially in times of crisis. “When you hit rock bottom, there is only one way to move: up,” Jarhum said. “I believe that a real, sustainable and inclusive peace can be achieved in Yemen. And I think the solution is really in the hands of women.” Considering a woman’s perspective in negotiating peace has worked in several cases, it should definitely be a part of the crisis in Yemen.
The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is a difficult issue to discuss. There has been so much destruction in the country that has affected millions of people in recent years. Fortunately, there are some options that could help resolve some of the damage that has been done. When gender equality is made a priority and when women are elected into office, not only is there better representation in a country’s government but important issues are also addressed. If women have a bigger voice in political affairs in Yemen and are able to address issues such as healthcare and education, the country would see how women can repair Yemen.