Empowering Young Women Leaders in Yemen

by Partners for Democratic Change
Women being trained by Partners as facilitators
Women being trained by Partners as facilitators

Yemeni father burns his daughter, 15, to death for keeping in touch with her fiance

  • A 35-year-old man has been arrested in a remote village in Taiz province
  • Believed the father caught the girl chatting on the phone to her fiance
  • Parts of Yemen prohibit contact between men and women before marriage

23 Oct 2013

Yemeni child bride, eight, dies of internal injuries on first night of forced marriage to groom five times her age

  • 'Rawan' died in the tribal area of Hardh, which borders Saudi Arabia
  • Activists have called for groom and family to be arrested over her death
  • One activist: 'Groom is an animal who deserved to be punished severely'

9 Sept 2013

These two recent reports of tragic events involving young women in Yemen are all too frequent in a country where social norms and customs prevent women from enjoying their rights and playing an active part in their communities and where contravening these rules can literally be fatal.

Partners for Democratic Change and Partners Yemen are trying to rewrite the headlines about Yemen. Through our programs we are giving a voice to women, women are returning to school, they are starting small businesses, and they are resolving conflicts in their communities. Moreover, men have also been affected by our women’s empowerment programming and we are changing patriarchal views about the role that women should play in Yemen.

“My father was listening from a close distance to me conducting a session, and he heard me raising awareness about education; he encouraged me…”.

 “The society [the community] has changed a lot; my wife visits other women in the neighborhood and educates them after she understood her role in the community [as a social volunteer]. She also talked to women and persuaded them to send their daughters back to school. She became one of those believing that she has a mission to educate others. In the beginning, she faced some problems as there were some persons who claimed that
my wife was pushing their wives to do things they would not accept, but I explained to them further’  –  husband of a social volunteer in Shabwa.

Please support our efforts in Yemen and the wider region. Support this campaign.

Young Yemeni Girl
Young Yemeni Girl

Yemen is all over the news right now as the British, French, German and Dutch embassies in Sana’a all announced their closures and evacuation of their staff in response to an unspecified terror threat, part of a global heightening
of security measures.

Partners for Democratic Change’s affiliate Center (Partners Yemen) has been working in Yemen since 2009, two years before a popular uprising forced Ali Abdallah Saleh to step down at the end of 2011. With a new Unity government in place, a new Constitution being developed and parliamentary and presidential elections slated for 2014, Partners Yemen is working to support a peaceful transition by strengthening civil society, resolving conflicts, and developing local leadership. Violent extremism remains a constant threat. Our approach in Yemen is to address the underlying conditions that provide an environment conducive to the recruitment to extremist causes. These conditions include lack of political participation, youth marginalization, local grievances and violent conflict.

Partners Yemen works in some of the most remote parts of the country where those who are most vulnerable to violent extremism live. Through empowering local civil society, youth, women and other groups, Partners helps resolve local conflicts, support participatory development, empower marginalized and susceptible youth, and promote good governance and citizens’ participation. All of these activities are vital to fighting violent extremism in Yemen. By utilizing dialogue, training and mentoring, Partners helps give voice to local grievances and empower citizens to influence decision making and hold government to account.

Our project supporting the empowerment of young women in Yemen is an example of this approach. A young
woman in Yemen must navigate restrictive social norms and customs and fight against prejudice that limits her potential. Wardah is one of the participants in our women’s empowerment project. Half of women her age (15-17) are illiterate and only 1 in 4 will continue on to secondary/high school. Yemen has one of the worst records of child
marriage in the world. UNICEF has recorded that almost 50% of Yemeni women currently aged 20–24 had been married before they were 18. Fourteen percent had been married before the age of 15.

Support Partners for Democratic Change and our affiliate Centers to advance and empower Muslim women and their communities. See this short video of the work we are doing in Yemen where we trained 75 women, like Wardah, who recruited a further 800 female social volunteers who went on to host over 8,000 community meetings
reaching over 127,000 women in the governorates of Mareb, Al-Jawf and Shebwa. 

Please DONATE NOW http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/women-leaders-in-yemen/

This work changed the perceptions of women about themselves and also changed men’s attitudes. The project opened up new opportunities for thousands of young women. We collected stories about girls and older women going back to school, about women’s increased self-respect and willingness to help other women, about women who now have a say in their families and in their communities, about members of the community getting together to solve community problems. There are stories about women starting to make their own money from small enterprises, about women who get together for charity, about women now understanding the causes of the illnesses of their children. Women are even better loved by their husbands because of what they have become as human

Partners for Democratic Change    

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The Future of Yemen
The Future of Yemen

The Bilqees Initiaitive was a program in Yemen delivered by Partners for Democratic Change and Partners Yemen designed to disseminate key development messages; mobilize a cadre of influential women leaders; activate a wide network of social volunteers to create a network of female communicators and leaders to raise awareness about development issues and contribute to enhancing stability.

An evaluation of this work to date has shown that the project has been effective in the achievement of its stated
program objectives. In particular there is strong evidence that a communication network has been established that has positively influenced stability in the targeted governorates of Marib and Shabwa . Ninety-eight percent of the women participants who were interviewed for the evaluation, agreed that the program was effective in its training and capacity building activities and later follow up administrative support for the women training and micro outreach events. Specific outcomes included:

  • Women leaders who are ready and willing to lead change in their communities and to bring a constructive approach to dealing with conflicts and community development. 
  • Communities that are more “aware” and more “open” and willing to cooperate with outside organizations and undertake change.
  • A large number of women (127,000) with an increased awareness of health and development topics that have brought about improvements to their lives. 
  • Informal groups that can lobby and advocate for development causes (women, youth and social leaders).
  • A new awareness of outstanding needs and gaps that were previously ignored.

There were many case study examples of women who started small enterprises following their involvement in the program; examples of where women had taken the lead in addressing environmental issues in their communities like protecting sources of water and properly collecting and disposing of household waste to avoid contamination and pollution of the community’s environment; where women had returned to education (one group of women started a neighborhood adult literacy school and they currently have 55 women enrolled); improved health through higher rates of vaccination;  examples of women resolving long standing conflicts between families or neighbors as a
result of the training women received on conflict resolution; decreased rates of early marriage and improved self-confidence; and agreement on lowering the dowry price for marriage.

Our challenge now is to secure further funding to continue projects like this in Yemen and the wider Middle East and North Africa region. The plight of women in this region has been well documented in a recent World Bank report (2013 March), Missing Voices: Gender Equality in the Arab World(http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2013/03/14/missing-voices-gender-equality-in-the-arab-world
This type of program is still needed. Further work needs to be done. We have currently raised $5,962 out of a total $50,000 target. The women themselves requested a continuation and expansion of the program to areas not presently covered, and to include additional topics for awareness raising, targeting larger audiences and involving more men and youth. We are committed to finding a way to do this and with your continued support we believe we will achieve this. 

Thank you for your generous donations.

Nick Oatley, Chief Operating Officer, Partners for Democratic Change.  


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Organization Information

Partners for Democratic Change

Location: Washington, DC - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.partnersglobal.org
Partners for Democratic Change
Project Leader:
Nick Oatley
Washington, DC United States

Funded Project!

Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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