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Women and Civil Society: Capacity Building in Yemen

Maggy Grabundzija
Blandine Destremau


Michel Tuchscherer

Texte intégral

1This work is first of all the result of fruitful collaboration between the department of cooperation in the French Embassy in Sana’a and CEFAS (French Center for Archaeology and Social Sciences in Sanaa). In January 2010, Mr. Benoit Deslandes, who was at the time the in charge of cooperation and cultural activities in Sana’a, called on CEFAS to perform an evaluation of the impact of development projects targeting women, conducted by Yemeni NGOs, and receiving financial support from the Fonds Social de Développement (French social development fund). I was at once in favour of this initiative, and contacted different people liable to become involved in this task: Maggy Grabundzija for the evaluation as such, Blandine Destremau and Stéphanie Latte for the scientific supervision of the work. From the outset, it was assumed that we would not restrict ourselves to the publication of a mere technical report, and that we would use the opportunity to launch a wider scientific debate on issues of gender and development, not only in Yemen, but in the Arabian Peninsula as a whole.

2This initiative fitted very well into reflection underway on the development of civil society in Yemen. Indeed, in July 2006 CEFAS and FES (Friedrich Ebert Stiftung), with the support of the cooperation department of our Embassy, organized a round table concerning relationships between “civil society, associations and local authorities in Yemen”.

3The acts of these events were published in 2008 in the form of two works, one gathering contributions in French and English, and the other the contributions in Arabic, with a substantial summary of those published in the first volume. For the present work, we resolved to publish solely in English with a complete translation into Arabic so as to make it accessible to as wide a public as possible, not only actors in the field, but also decision-makers and researchers. The report drawn up by Maggy Grabundzija and published herein is put into perspective by way of a substantial theoretical presentation by Blandine Destremau. By this means we hope to provide a significant contribution to ongoing debate on issues of gender and development.

4The initial aim of a wider scientific debate has already materialized in a conference organized on the 16th and 17th of November 2011 in Cairo, after it proved impossible to organize it in Yemen in the previous July. Over two days, some 30 researchers working on the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa debated on “changes occurring in gender issues”. They broached numerous themes in this respect: public policies, professionalization, labour markets, mobility patterns, and care, or again moral issues, privacy and changes in subjectivity, not only in i reference to women, but also to men and masculinity patterns. The acts of this two-day event are to be published in 2012 in the CEFAS journal, to be reformatted by the same occasion.

5While our initiative finds its place in reflection on civil society that has been underway for some years in CEFAS, it is also a continuation of a much older tradition of interest in women in Yemen and their relationships with the masculine world. In her book Une Française médecin au Yemen, published in French in 1955 and later in numerous languages including Arabic, Claudie Fayein had a lot to say about the Yemeni women she had observed, frequented and cared for in the course of her first stay in the country from 1951 to 1952. Subsequently she was to return to Yemen in the 1970s, in particular with the task of developing the ethnographic part of the Yemen National Museum. In the collections of objects gathered at that time, the world of women occupies a central place. It can be hoped that this part of the Museum, which has been closed for several years, will soon be accessible again to the public.

6Cairo, November 25th, 2011

© Centre français d’archéologie et de sciences sociales, 2011

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