Women of South Yemen: Challenges and Empowerment’s Hardships


Sun, 12-12-2021 07:30 PM, Aden

Cairo (South24)

A new study reviewed the impact of political changes on the reality of women in South Yemen, especially after the Yemeni unity in 1990 until today, pointing to the leading Southern women’s roles during the previous state of South Yemen, and later to the difficulties they are experiencing due to the confiscation of many of their rights Political and social, which have been subject to the influence of radical religious forces during the past three decades.

The study, issued by the South24 Center for News and Studies, last Sunday, by political researcher Farida Ahmed, focused on the difficulties and challenges women face in the matter of empowerment, based on a number of interviews with Southern women from different governorates of South Yemen.

The study said that the suffering of Yemeni women is the same, whether in North or South, and has further increased since 2014 after the eruption of the war. "However, highlighting the conditions of Southern Women is due to the lack of research data about their history and present. Such deficiencies to deliver their messages makes it important to focus on those women and give them some space within the readings of those interested."

The study claimed that, "most of Yemeni history was written by men about their life and works in different issues including politics, war, economy and other fields. Women were rarely mentioned and usually portrayed within stereotypical roles which sometimes belittle and marginalize them."

The fingerprints of the pioneering Southern women since the stage of resisting British colonialism in South Yemen "left an impressive fingerprint on their generation females. Their participation varied between trade unions, student movement, anti-colonialism secret work, armed battles, and anti-colonialism demonstrations..," said the study.

After the independence of South Yemen in 1967, the study said: "Women rights became a priority in the recently independent social state. The formal so-called women liberation policy was a result of the National Liberation Front’s anti-imperialist “progressive” approach. In light of this, women were invited to participate in the public arena, education, employment, politics and military affairs..".

"At the beginning of the 1970's, Southern women were the first in the Arabian Peninsula who worked as Deputy Minister, Dean of the Faculty of Economics (first University to do so), T.V and Radio Presenter, Civil Aircraft Pilot,  and to drive a car. Aden was the first Arab city to embrace a women movement in the Arab Peninsula.  Almost all of those positions were not held by any women in the Arabian Peninsula at that time."

Unlike the rest of the countries on the Arabian Peninsula, the former socialist South Yemen "made many reforms for women and empowered them to access many fields. Girls were allowed to study in mixed schools, and women were encouraged to enter the labor market and to take off “hijab”. Additionally, polygamy had been banned at that time." 

Abuses and a patriarchal society

The study said that after the summer 1994 war, Southern women were subjected to injustice and marginalization. "They were excluded and alienated from most governmental jobs as happend with men, and they faced a war under the pretext of religion, customs and traditions in contrast with the freedom they enjoyed before the Unity regarding political, social and civil rights. They were forcibly retired from many administrational jobs, factories and other state institutions in South Yemen which provided safe areas for feminine work and protected their privacy according to the Southern Labor Law."

The paper referred to the prominent presence the Southern Women "in the peaceful Hirak march in Aden, Hadramout, Abyan, Mahra, Lahij, Shabwa and Dhale, as they participated in the peaceful demonstrations and symposiums, as well as organizing festivals and delivering speeches for supporting the peaceful march and encouraging their Southern peers to participate."

Despite the participation of some Southern women during the National Dialogue Conference in 2013, in Sana'a, the Study said that they "didn’t have a clear political stance reflecting the Southerners' demands to restore the former state... Most of the selected names were in the same line with the political stance that opposed independence demands according to critics."

The study enumerated the extent of armed violations that Southern women were subjected to during the battles waged by the Houthis and their allies against South Yemen in 2015. It referred to more than 175 cases of sniping, killing and wounding in several Southern governorates.

A number of Southern women who spoke in the Study sharply criticized what they described as a "patriarchal society" and accused it of suppressing the role of women at the political and social levels.

Despite this, the paper also criticized the absence of Southern women today from political work because of their fears the official and religious groups, and "women’s lack of awareness about the importance of their political and social involvement."

The study stressed the necessity of empowering Southern women in the political process in Yemen, noting to  the UN Security Council Resolution No. 1325, "that affirms the right of women to participate in decision-making related to the conflict and post-conflict stages, including negotiations and decisions resulting from them or governance. This is what Yemeni women, in South and North, demand, to participate in negotiations for a final solution to the war in Yemen."


The researcher Farida Ahmed concluded a number of recommendations in the study:

• It is important to press the disputing parties and the UN Envoy to Yemen “Hans Grundberg” to involve women and support their representation in the comprehensive solution peace negotiation including the Southern women on an equal footing with their Northern peers.

• It is important to press the Southern women who are currently involved in the decision-making centers to show responsibility by pushing for women’s participation and enhancing their presence so as to enjoy priority in the next political phase. 

• Harnessing the Southern media outlets to play an enlightening role by employing the media message for raising the society’s awareness in a way that contributes to changing the prevailing stereotype about women which is only limited to certain roles. 

• Making sure that all segments of the society are aware that stability, security and sustainable development can’t be achieved amid women’s absence from the political, economic and social arena. 

• Securing the support of the regional and international bodies to the Southern non-governmental organizations and the research centers which are interested in making researches about women’s participation and empowerment at various levels, and the impact of this support on the decision-making process and the circumstances surrounding it.

• Establishing a database about women’s status in the different decision-making bodies in South Yemen for backing a larger female representation. 

• It is important to prepare a generation of Southern women who could make impact, presence and achievements, as well as open communication channels with local and external experiences for backing their rights and demands.

• Southern women shouldn’t confine themselves in dealing with their affairs only, but they have to involve themselves in other variable issues that open for them wider empowerment and participation horizons.

• Studying women’s status, activities and influence in light of the needs of each area, and absorbing women across different regions as part of engagement in the political, social and other activities. In other words, there should be no focus on certain governorates at the expense of others.

• The empowerment of Southern women at the political, economic and social levels ensures representation of the demands of them and other marginalized sections in the local community, and makes the decision-making process more responsive to their needs.

- To read and download the entire study in English (here)

South Yemen WomenWomen RightsYemenYemen War