By Michele Cervone d'Urso
Head of the European Union delegation
SANA’A, March 08 (Saba)- On 08 March the world celebrates International Women’s Day – a day dedicated to stress the continued need to work towards strengthening gender equality. A continued need, as women worldwide still do not enjoy equal rights as compared to men, but in many countries it holds true that women do not even have equal rights as compared to their sisters in other parts of the world.
In Yemen, men and women suffer from the same issues: poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, no access to health care…etc Nevertheless, women suffer even more than men from some issues: for example, the rate of illiteracy reaches 70% for Yemeni women, while 30% of the Yemeni men are illiterate. The fight for education of women is not only a fight for gender equality, but also a fight for social and economic development. Indeed, all around the world, everybody can see that there is a strong linkage between education and rights of women and economic development and prosperity. If, sadly, Yemen has ranked at the bottom of the Global Gender Gap Index in the past years; Yemen can also boast to have brought forward some remarkable women – the Queen of Sheba is an obvious example from the past, but more recently, there are impressive role models such as UN Assistant Secretary General Amat al-Aleem al-Soswah, filmmaker Khadijah al-Salami and of course Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkul Kerman.
The European Union has embedded the right for equity as a core policy in its foreign relations, both in the political sphere as well as in its development cooperation. In the Republic of Yemen, the EU Delegation has since several years taken the lead in funding Yemeni-led and Yemeni-initiated projects towards strengthening female political participation, towards raising awareness on women’s rights, towards improving female health indicators and ensuring a safe childhood for Yemeni girls, towards promoting access to justice and finance for women. Nowadays, women’s rights are mainstreamed throughout all our programmes and remain a prominent feature of the political dialogue with our Yemeni partners at all levels. The European Union Delegation has supported women in Yemen in different fields by carrying out various projects with various partners for a total amount of more than 6 millions euro since 2008.
Today, International Women’s Day provides yet another opportunity to salute the Yemeni women for their positive contribution to establish a New Yemen. Throughout 2011, we have seen Yemeni women standing side-by-side with Yemeni men, fully involved in the revolution, demanding a modern, democratic and civil State, rights, a decent life, stability and security. Now has come the time to ensure these justified demands are met – by ensuring a fair representation of women in Yemen’s key structures, starting with the upcoming National Dialogue and by ensuring women’s voices continue to be heard in all decision-making processes, at national as well as local levels. All the components of the Yemeni society shall participate in the building of the new Yemen and nobody should forget that women represent half of the population that cannot be marginalized.
The European Union stands ready to support the realisation of a truly equitable state for men and women within the Republic of Yemen. We share the aspirations of Yemen’s women to build a society where men and women enjoy political, economic and social equality; where all children can enjoy a happy and safe childhood; where women and men work together to raise the living standards of their society. Together Yemenis will build their new Yemen, together they will protect it … a new Yemen where all basic human rights, gender equality included, are respected; a new Yemen that will allow all the Yemeni people to develop their country for the sake of all; a new Yemen which is no longer a distant dream with the current political process, which has to be inclusive, genuine and fair.