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Women are the worst affected by this devastating conflict and continue to pay the heaviest price in every aspect of their lives. Gender-based violence, child marriages and exclusion are on the rise. The scale of the suffering of all Yemenis amidst the war is beyond description and regrettably the focus on women and their rights has largely been neglected. Unfortunately, according to many, women’s rights, gender equality and inclusion have become a luxury that Yemen cannot afford anymore. This tide needs to turn.
Empowering women and advancing their rights need to make their way back into the political discourse and in development agendas. Women make up half of the society and their rights need to be streamlined into the work of all. The EU staunchly continues to support the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) on issues related to women, as a first step in advancing their rights in Yemen. This includes the NDC key recommendations related to criminalisation of violence against women, setting the minimum age for marriage at 18, and ensuring a 30% quota for the representation of women in all political settings.
The EU wholeheartedly advocates for a negotiated political settlement for the crisis in Yemen. The EU continues – with renewed impetus – to support the UN-led efforts to reach a durable political solution which, to be successful, must include women and their empowerment. Let us be clear, there is no military solution to this crisis. Women and their aspirations should be taken into consideration in any political agreement aiming at ending the war and the current humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Empowering women can contribute to promoting peace, re-building communities and enhancing post-conflict recovery. The support of women is an essential mission in the short-term and one of the most worthwhile investments in the medium and long-term.
The EU is incessantly calling for the resumption of payment of salaries of state employees. Unpaid salaries aggravate the suffering and poverty in Yemen as it has an impact on key sectors such as education and healthcare, therefore hindering the schooling of girls and their access to reproductive health. Without good education, it will be difficult to empower girls and women. In Yemen, women also remain a powerful contributor to the national economy, notably in the agricultural sector, despite all current challenges. As the war drags on, the EU has increasingly focused on building resilience of rural populations, helping local communities to have access to basic services and improving their livelihoods. Empowerment and inclusion of Yemeni women remains a high priority in all of these interventions.
The path of Yemeni women towards equality is still long, but throughout history, they have demonstrated to be strong agents of change. The mettle and charisma of all the Yemeni women I have met confirm that women in Yemen have the potential and skills to charter a brighter future for their own country. I want to commend all women of Yemen for the vital role played within their communities and reiterate the EU's commitment to join forces with all actors to build a future made of equal opportunities for all men and women of Yemen. To allow for this, the war must stop now.