Yemen's women of action confined to their homes

Yemen's women of action confined to their homes
Features: Advances made by Yemeni women in recent years might be lost as old gender prejudices resurface during a time of war.
3 min read
26 May, 2015
Some Yemeni women have defied the warnings to continue life as normal [AFP]

Air raids and gun battles have forced many Yemeni women to stay at home. War has made the streets increasingly unsafe, and many women have chosen to given up their jobs rather than risk stray bullets and shrapnel.

Wafaa al-Babeli worked as a nurse during the nightshift at a Sanaa hospital but has chosen to stay at home after her family pleaded with her not to risk her life on the Sanaa streets after the start of the war.

"I have not left the house in more than a month as my siblings fear I may get harmed," she said. 

Babeli said that each day she feels bored and she hopes the war will end soon so she can go back to the hospital and see her friends. 

She requested a one-month leave from work, but was told that she would be fired if she stayed at home any longer.

Her son now goes to the nearby souq for the weekly shopping while she has been turned into a "prisoner in her own home". Many of her friends feel the same.

"My neighbour used to take her children to the nearby park every now and then, but the war has taken [this pleasure] away from her," she said. 

     Yemeni society believes that women should not join men in the public sphere, whether in times of war or peace.
Sumayah Mohammed, activist

Activist Sumayah Mohammed said that the war had left many women confined to their homes.

"Most Yemeni families prevent their women from leaving the house fearing harm, and believing that women would not be able to act as men do in times of crisis," said Mohammed.

She said that there was an environment of the "brutality of the male authority" against women in Yemen, particularly in rural areas.

"During war, women are not allowed to go to college or work," she said.

Most colleges in Sanaa have suspended all activities because so many women students were not able to attend.

However, Mohammed said that a few women had refused to conform to the "meek and mild" stereotypes that often dominate Yemani society, and continued to leave their homes as normal.

Mona al-Harithi, the head of the Sanaa branch of the National Women's Committee said that beside family pressure and male chauvinism, there are many other factors that inhibit women's freedom of movement in Yemen.

"Transportation has been suspended, and people now use motorbikes and trucks, which are difficult for women to use. So many women have chosen to stay at home even if their families allow them to leave," she said.

But many women fear that the jobs and gains they have worked so hard to gain could be lost before the war ends.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.