As Yemen prepares for the start of its National Dialogue conference, the Rafik Hariri Center and the US Institute of Peace hosted a discussion with former Yemeni Minister of Human Rights Amat Al Alim Alsoswa on January 30 to discuss the role of Yemeni women as the country continues its transition process.

Danya Greenfield, deputy director of the Hariri Center, and Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen from USIP, moderated the event.

Alsoswa, Yemen’s first Minister of Human Rights in Yemen and former Assistant Administrator of the UNDP, noted that women were an instrumental part of Yemen’s 2011 revolution and courageously demanded the right to be treated as full citizens. Women were present and actively demonstrating in Change Squares across the country in the initial phase of the uprising, but were subsequently sidelined by conservative, tribal, and religious norms. Most withdrew from the public protests, but remained active in the revolution in other ways. There are several women on the National Dialogue Preparatory Committee, and women’s advocates fought for secure representation in the upcoming National Dialogue Conference, with women allotted forty of the 565 seats and 30 percent representation on committees.

Alsoswa noted that Yemeni women are trying to create networks to achieve their goals, but that fragmentation among women occurred after the revolution, and among political groups more widely. Illiteracy as well as lack of internet access also impairs women from forming strong coalitions, said Alsoswa. She discussed the deep divisions between the various Yemeni political factions in terms of what women’s rights should encompass, and the upcoming phase of constitutional development will bring into question how women’s rights should be addressed. On broader issues related to Yemen’s transition, Alsoswa underscored the dire situation of the Yemeni economy as well as the increasing phenomenon of internally displaced persons who have been forced to flee their homes. Both economic distress and the humanitarian situation in Yemen must be addressed, noted Alsoswa, if Yemen’s transition is to proceed smoothly.

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