Cablegate: Yemeni Women Demand Greater Participation in Party

Published: Tue 7 Sep 2004 01:43 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. Summary: On August 25 nineteen female members of the
three major Yemeni political parties overcame substantive
political differences to sign a joint-declaration calling on
their parties to accept a quota for women candidates in the
2006 municipal and 2009 parliamentary elections. The
culmination of a MEPI/NDI workshop, the declaration calls for
greater inclusion of women in their parties' decision making
process, improved media coverage of women's political
activism, and party support for a women's department in the
Supreme Commission for Elections and Referenda. The women
expect to release the declaration at a press conference on
Wednesday, September 8. End summary.
Challenges: Identifying the Road Ahead
2. Nineteen female members of the General People's Congress
(GPC), The Yemeni Congregation for Reform (Islah), and the
Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP) participated in the August 21-25
NDI workshop. According to NDI Yemen Country Director Yemen
Robin Madrid, reaching consensus on the declaration was not
easy. NDI conference facilitators had to overcome the fear
of participants that the majority GPC women would dominate
the process. Interestingly, according to Madrid, it was the
Islah women who were more politically astute, more
progressive vis a vis women's rights, and more accustomed to
fighting in order to defend their position.
3. During the conference, the women identified some of the
difficulties they faced in daily political life. Primary
among their frustrations was their exclusion from access to
decision making gatherings, including evening party
assemblies (which some were not allowed to participate in
because of their families), meetings with tribal Sheikhs, and
Qat chews.
Reforms: Putting on the Pressure
4. In addition to approving the declaration, the participants
identified needed projects to facilitate reform. These
ranged from conducting a public opinion survey to determine
the attitudes of male and female party members attitudes
towards women's participation in local councils and improving
party fundraising capacity. They also identified the
substantive step toward implementing these reforms. The
women also identified three principal goals they needed to
collectively achieve: Enhancing personal power, increasing
women's strength within political parties, and developing a
national message and strategy to promote women's political
Next Steps: Keeping up the Momentum
5. To ensure follow-up on the conference and the ensuing
declaration, NDI will appoint a resident political party
expert to visit the various party branches in September to
advice on implementation of the proposed reforms, assist in
the development of enhanced intra-party communication, and
help lobby for the implementation of the declaration.
6. Comment. Both the declaration and workshop come at a
time when Yemeni women have been losing political ground
within the ROYG. Since unification in 1990, societal norms
and political parties' systematic hindrance of female
candidates have chipped away at women's political
representation. Since 1990, women have lost ten out of 11
seats in Parliament. However, at the same time that their
numbers in Parliament have declined, Yemeni women have
increased their participation in voting and party activities.
Capitalizing on the growing political awareness of women in
Yemen, this MEPI program is helping women develop the
necessary tools for women to regain and exceed their previous
levels of representation in elected bodies. End Comment.
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