The title of this post is a quote from Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, Indian political leader and diplomat, related to the theme of striving for a comprehensive peace impossible without gender equality. This theme was the main message at a discussion hosted by the United States Institute for Peace (USIP) on January 30th, which explored the role of women in the Yemeni transition. Amat Alsoswa, Yemen’s first Minister for Human Rights, presented an overview of the role of women to date, focusing her talk on the importance of following the women’s right agenda in 2013. Below is a summary of her talk.
The women and youth of Yemen played a crucial role in the relatively peaceful February 2011 revolution. Women in Yemen have traditionally been amongst the least publicly active populations across the world. Thus, it came as a shock to the society when women came out on the streets in sizeable numbers. Yet this only lasted for two months; many women reverted back to their homes after a speech made by ex-President Saleh in April 2011 saying that mixing between men and women during the revolution was haraam, [a sin]. Despite initial backlash to his words, the revolutionaries were certainly affected and started a process of gender segregation. Nevertheless, the important role of women has not subsided. For example, negotiators proposed that women should be represented at a ‘suitable’ level throughout the transition process but women resisted this and managed to get a 30% quota for representation throughout the transitional period.