In two weeks, Yemen will enter into the seventh year of a war that has pushed the country into inconceivable suffering and devastation. The war has gravely affected all Yemenis – men, women and children. Still, despite having shown incredible resilience and determination, Yemeni women and girls are hardest hit. Already before the war, Yemen faced alarming levels of gender inequality. Now, it ranks at the bottom of every global index measuring gender equality related factors. The increase of child marriages of the past year, fuelled by the dire financial constraints faced by Yemeni families, is deeply troubling. The COVID-19 pandemic undeniably increased the level of Gender-Based Violence.
Six years of war and a humanitarian crisis, worsening by the day, have furthered the marginalisation of Yemeni women and girls. Still, Yemen is home to many strong and brave advocates for women’s rights; most of them are women and they are taking enormous risks. While an end to the war is urgently needed, ensuring the rights of all Yemenis cannot wait. Yemenis and international partners can and must work steadfastly to ensure the full rights of women and their ability to contribute to and participate at all levels of society. We need collectively to ensure that half of the Yemeni population is guaranteed its basic rights.
Despite agreed targets, no women were appointed to the new Yemeni government. This was a wake-up call for all Yemenis and the international community. It is a well-established fact that respecting the full rights of, and duly empowering, women at all levels of society is not only the right thing to do but also the smart thing to do. The societal benefits cannot be overestimated. However, it is a process, and will take time. Despite having made progress, the European Union has in this regard still a long way to go. European women still do not enjoy equal rights and benefits. In Yemen, the EU and its Member States will therefore continue its advocacy for a meaningful inclusion of women in the decision-making, in the peace process and in all sectors, all over Yemen. We can, and must do, more.
The European Union puts the empowerment of Yemeni women at the heart of all its engagement; mainstreamed in all policies, projects and programmes. Through our engagement we have supported thousands of Yemeni women, empowering them economically and contributing to giving them confidence and hope.
I am truly inspired by the story of Iman al-Hamali, a Yemeni woman from Hajjah, who set up the country’s first solar micro-grid in northwest Yemen, not far from the frontline, with ten women associates. These women now operate their micro-station, which provides them with a sustainable income, and equally important, with affordable, clean energy for their frontline community. Iman was chosen as one of the BBC’s 100 women of 2020 for her innovative role in this field. I am proud that this initiative was made possible thanks to EU funding, in partnership with UNDP Yemen. There are of course countless women like Iman in Yemen. They need to have the opportunity to unleash their potential and transform their communities.
While continuing our unrelenting engagement for peace in Yemen, the European Union will continue to promote gender equality in Yemen with our partners in all fields: political, developmental and humanitarian. The European Union is ready to help Yemen on the path towards an equitable society where women can contribute to shaping the future of their country and become role models for our children, boys and girls.
EU Ambassador to Yemen