Yemeni Women on the Front-lines of War and Peace
“It is the women of Yemen who pay the highest price of the war, the voice of women is crucial to build peace”, says Somaya, a member of the women technical advisory group which convened earlier this month in Amman.
In general, women’s inclusion brings different understanding to the conflict, expands the range of domestic constituencies and increases the legitimacy of the peace process. The Yemeni National Dialogue Conference adopted in its outcome document a 30% inclusion quota for women in all government positions, as well as delegations and committees.
In this context, and in line with the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820 which address the importance of the inclusion of women in peace and security, as well as the outcome document of the Yemeni National Dialogue Conference, the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary General for Yemen (OSESGY) formed the Yemeni women’s technical advisory group, to ensure the inclusion of a variety of Yemeni women’s voices. The members of the group offer advice, in their independent capacities, directly to the Special Envoy and his team, based on the principles of neutrality, independence, and professionalism.
Somaya, once a member of the Yemeni National Dialogue, has been based inside Yemen throughout the war, and has been doing a lot of work to help resolve conflicts at the local level. She helped resolve a dispute between two tribes, that took the lives of more than 60 persons. Acting as a mediator and facilitator, she thinks that persistence and good communication with all the parties are key to reaching a peaceful settlement. “For this particular dispute, all the parties were responsive. They fully engaged with the mediation efforts. And no, they did not refuse to deal with a woman. I was able to win their confidence, and work with them to reach a settlement.
As a lawyer whose work in mediation is totally voluntary, Somaya remains concerned that the ongoing war in Yemen might have a negative impact on such local mediation efforts. “Such settlements remain fragile, when the war is ongoing everywhere, a resolved dispute might re-erupt again.” Yet, she intends to keep on working inside Yemen, to spread values of dialogue, peace and co-existence; “a nation-wide peace cannot be achieved without peace-building efforts at the local level”.
During their latest meeting in Amman, the Special Envoy of the Secretary General for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, chaired a session in the two days meeting of the women technical advisory group. Griffiths discussed with the group his current efforts to re-launch the political process, as well as the overall situation in Yemen, and stressed the important role of Yemeni women in peace-building when the war ends. Griffiths stressed the importance of his consultations with the group, and more importantly the inspiring work the members of the group, and other Yemeni women continue to do inside Yemen.
The Yemeni women’s technical advisory group is not devised to be a separate body or delegation during the negotiations, but it works in close collaboration with the Gender Women Peace and Security Unit of OSESGY, to feed into the overall strategy of the Special Envoy. The members of the group are selected based on their professional background and in their own merit. Their advice is based on technical expertise and not on their political inclinations or any other personal motives. Also, the membership of the group rotates, in order to benefit from a wide range of women experiences and advice.
Feature story by: Hanan Elbadawi; Chief of Public Information, OSESGY