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Société civile, associations et pouvoir local au Yémen

 | 
Sarah Ben Nefissa
, 
Maggy Grabundzija
, 
Jean Lambert

Chapter 2: Civil Society and Social Changes

The Associations and the Promotion of Women’s Issues (abstract)

Bilqis Abu Osbaa

Entrées d'index

Texte intégral

1Since the publication in 1995 of the 10th report of the UNO Program for Human Development which stated to the effect that the success in human development activity required a conjoint participation of men and women, the international community made efforts to promote the question of gender and to improve the situation of women by increasing their opportunities for participation in the field of development and in polities. The emergence and later the growth of civil society associations (especially feminist groups) has made it possible to activate the role of women in society, reinforcing their position in the economic, social and political fields.

The historical formation of civil society organizations in Yemen and their relation to feminist issues

2The associations appeared in Yemen for the first time at the beginning of the 20th century in connection with the struggle against the colonization of the South and the Imamate in the North, and later, in the 1960’s, in the context of national formation and division. Since 1990 and until 2003, the associations underwent a significant growth. From about 280 associations their number reached 2780. Most of them dedicate their activity to development issues in general (1242 associations), to social and cooperative development (661) and also to issues related to the development of women and the family (96).

The significance of active associations in relation to gender issues

3The Arab Network report of 2004 underlines the growth of feminist organizations in the Arab World, especially in the Republic of Egypt which is on the top of the list with its 200 feminist organizations. Egypt is closely followed by the Republic of Yemen which shows a total of 171 organizations. The Kingdom of Jordan and the Kingdom of Morocco follow, while Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates occupy the last place. The statistics show that despite the presence of feminist associations, they are not able to attract women to participate in decision-making: the analysis indicates that inequality still persists with respect to the number of adherents, the degree of their contribution to the administration and direction committees and the level of salary and responsibility assigned to them. In general, women’s success within these organizations is limited as compared to the success of men. This is due to various reasons: a poor understanding of the objectives of these organizations, the negative attitude of the society towards associative activities, and the lack of awareness of the necessity of partnership between men and women for resolving gender issues.

The role of these associations in the activation of feminist issues

4The study of the situation of Yemeni women participating in civil society associations indicates that their contribution to these associative activities is influenced by a number of factors. First of all, one should mention the inferiority of the number of women as compared to the total number of members, especially on the administrative and executive levels. In addition, geographical divisions exist. The adhesion of women to the organizations dealing with feminist issues is in progress in Sanaa as well as in the capitals of the governorates of Hadhramawt, Taez, Aden, Ibb, Abyan, Lahj and Mahwīt. However, their participation remains very limited and ineffectual in the governorates of Ma’rib, Shabwa, Mahra, ‘Amrān and Hudayda. As for division in the workplace, women are still mostly employed in traditional activities (dressmaking, embroidery, housekeeping, cattle-breeding, pottery, etc.). The question thus arises as well about the independence of the associations, since most of them are linked to the state or to political parties.

5Concerning the participation of women in political life, there was a significant progress in their participation in parliamentary and local elections: 18 % (1993), 27 % (1997), and 42 % (2003), while the number of women candidates greatly decreased: from 42 in the elections of 1993 to 23 in 1997 and 11 in 2003. Besides this fact, the number of women in Parliament has also decreased rapidly. In 1990 there were 10 women in the Lower Chamber, only two were elected in 1993 out of the total of 301 members. The situation remained the same for 1997. In the current Parliament which was elected in 2003, there is only one woman. Moreover, women very rarely participate in the decision-making of political parties as well as in their leadership.

6During recent years, some civil society organizations have been investing in the protection of women within the domain of human rights. With the increase of finances from abroad, the importance of this kind of activity has augmented. However, for the time being, the results of the study underline the lack of recognition by political parties of the difficulties women undergo in order to become candidates.

The way to activate the role of these associations concerning women issues

7Despite the fact that these associations were supposed to support thousands of marginalized women, as well as to promulgate democracy and human rights, it seems that these structures are blocked in Arab societies by a masculine machismo culture which prevents women from obtaining their rights. In order for civil society organizations to accomplish their role vis-à-vis feminist issues, it is necessary to create an environment that would be favorable for them and that would support their activities. The countries should undertake reforms on different levels to realize this long aspired for development. This should be achieved with the participation of all citizens.

Auteur

Professor at Sanaa University, Department of Political Science

© Centre français d’archéologie et de sciences sociales, 2008

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540

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