Today was a very special occasion indeed! We welcomed the very accomplished Nadia Al-Sakkaf who told us all about her research on Yemeni Women. It was wonderful to hear from someone who has such a wealth of personal experience which relates to her own research. Nadia was editor in chief of the Yemen Times and former minister of information. Read more about her remarkable story here.
Nadia set the tone for her paper by asking why female politicians in Yemen have not been able to improve the lives of women despite their increasing numbers in parliament. With the Gender Gap Index behind her, Nadia problematised the correlation between increasing representation of women in government and improvement in equality. She asked why some African countries such as Rwanda had scored highly in the Gender Gap Index and yet there is still a long way for them to go in terms of equality.
Nadia told us fascinating stories about women she has met in Yemen who are in high powered positions yet still have limited freedoms such as giving their husband some of their salary and not being allowed to travel abroad without a chaperone. She added that condescending attitudes towards women in important positions are also common. Nadia declared very poignantly that women such as herself who are (or who have been) in high positions “feel disempowered by being empowered”. This begs the question of how women can become empowered in Yemen and beyond… As we discussed in the Q and A, there is no simple answer. Clearly, the political structures in place need to change and, of course, education for girls must be a priority.
Thank you very much to everyone who attended this illuminating talk. We hope to see you again on the 17th October!
Report by Maria Tomlinson