Saturday, October 30, 2021 – The human rights track of the National Reconciliation Movement organised a session on “the level of Yemen’s implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women – CEDAW”. The session started with Mrs. Houria Mashhour, founding member of the movement, to which many women contributed to its establishment and its various activities, welcomed the attendees and gave a brief overview of the reality experienced by Yemeni women. In her speech, she noted that Yemeni women were not able to enjoy their rights, compared to their counterparts in other Arab countries, despite their tangible presence in the political process. She also stressed the need to stop the war and achieve peace so that Yemeni citizens, especially women, can enjoy their rights, noting that the war has multiplied human rights violations and therefore it is necessary to end the war and reach a just, comprehensive and sustainable peace to address the effects of those violations and lay the foundations of a civil state in which rights and human dignity are preserved.
Nabil Abdel Hafeez, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Legal Affairs and Human Rights, head of the CEDAW government delegation, reviewed the responses of the government delegation to the questions of the experts of the CEDAW Committee, about the problem of war and the major violations accompanying it, especially in areas outside the control of legitimate government. On the position of the Ministry of Human Rights on women’s political participation, Abdel Hafeez affirmed the ministry’s position on women’s political participation and representation in the government, describing their exclusion from the government as a sin, although the reason for this was the political vision of political parties, and the result of reducing the number of ministries.
He added, “We talked about malnutrition, famine, reproductive health, poverty, and other issues that affect women the bulk of these disasters, especially with many men going to the battlefields, and this is what we were keen to present and explain to the committee.” He added that the government’s attendance and discussion of a report before a committee such as the CEDAW committee is a great achievement, and the committee is happy, especially with the CEDAW committee’s understanding of the exceptional situation that our country is experiencing due to the war.
Nabila Al-Hakimi, director of the human rights track at the movement, gave an overview of the role and tasks of the track and stressed the importance of ending the war, starting the dialogue processes, establishing peace, restoring the law and implementing it, and that women should have adequate participation and protection, in addition to providing them with basic services. Regarding the participation of the National Committee for Women in the hearing session within the government delegation, Dr. Shafiqa Saeed, chair of the committee, said: “The CEDAW Committee has taken into account the conditions that Yemen is going through, and the reasons for the decline in the role of women as a result of the war and the difficult conditions in the country.”
Essam Al Shaeri, Director General of International Organisations and Reports at the Ministry of Human Rights, and a member of the participating delegation, said, “This project was discussed and drafted with the National Committee for Women earlier, and a number of activities were implemented with funding from the United Nations Development Program, which was halted as a result of the coup.” Similarly, Dr. Radhia Basamd, Vice Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Aden, and a member of the participating delegation, said: “Women play a major role in the educational process at the University of Aden, as we work to educate and rehabilitate women to be an effective component of society. We have a special center for women’s studies at the university, and we implement many From specialised and in-depth studies and research through the Women’s Center or the Department of Sociology and Social Service.
Amal Basha, President of the Arab Sisters Forum for Human Rights, made a number of observations about the hearing organised by the CEDAW Committee, the first of which was that the presence of civil society and the government delegation was distinguished for the first time, compared to previous times when the Sisters Forum was the only civil society providing shadow reports. She added, “Had it not been for women’s fight to preserve their gains and for these gains to continue and grow, we would not have found today shadow reports showing the extent to which women are affected by equal citizenship.” Regarding her observations on the government delegation, Al-Basha said, “I am not happy with this formation, for several reasons, the first of which is that it was assumed that there would be a large number of women with experience, expertise and knowledge of everything that was involved in the National Committee, and this is not a reduction in participation as much as it is a desire to obtain the best, in addition to the fact that it was assumed that the delegation would be headed by a woman because the issue was related to them, and of course this is normal in light of the exclusion that Yemeni women live in decision-making positions. I also hoped that accurate information would be provided by the government delegation about the situation of women in Yemen and the services provided to them “.
Rasha Jarhum, Director of the Peace Track Initiative, said: “The focus in CEDAW was in contrast to our approach in the initiative, which focuses on documenting violations against women, and supporting women human rights defenders who have been subjected to violations, by providing emergency financial grants, which is one of the most programs which we can get funding for, compared to the cases presented.”
“We presented our report by collecting information from nine organisations that we supported consultations with earlier, and reflected them in the report submitted by us, and we also talked about the systematic exclusion that Yemeni women are exposed to,” Jarhum added.
Maha Awad, Head of Wogood Foundation for Human Security, said that the National Committee for Women is the main bearer of the CEDAW issue and to represent the government and the Republic of Yemen in this file, and that the conditions of the war disrupted the role of the committee, but what happened was taking the role of the committee without even involving it. She added, “The Ministry of Human Rights did not share the comments with us, and we are saddened that it submitted the reports submitted by the committee without making any changes or additions in line with the changes and circumstances created by the war.”
Professor Bahia Al-Saqqaf, President of the Alf Ba’a Foundation for Civilization and Coexistence, said: “The issue of religion is a sensitive issue, and that the Yemeni constitution and various laws derive its teachings from Islamic Sharia. Unfair legislation, because the legislation established is not based on Qur’anic texts as much as it relies on interpretations and interpretations that unfair the right of Yemeni women, and which made Yemeni women fall into the tangles of misinterpretations of religion and the laws that are based on those interpretations. She also spoke about the effects of the war on the human rights side of women, as “a large number of them are now languishing in pre-trial prisons for months, and even for a year and a half and two years on malicious charges that do not require the detention of women for three days.”
A large number of civil society organisations, women’s organisations and networks, activists, and representatives of government agencies participated in the discussion session. In conclusion, it was emphasised to work on the priorities imposed by the conditions of war and conflict, and to set a plan and timetable for its implementation, and to provide it with support from government sources and international support sources.