Poor economy and war forcing Yemeni women to break with tradition and become breadwinners

The dire economic situation and hardship caused by the four-year conflict in Yemen has added to the burden faced by many women — and brought a dramatic shift in gender roles. (AN photo by Musab Alzoriki)
Updated 11 March 2018
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Poor economy and war forcing Yemeni women to break with tradition and become breadwinners

ADEN: Like most Yemeni women, Hafsah bint Raweh used to stay at home and rely on her husband to provide for the family.
But since early 2016, when a stroke left her husband partially paralyzed and unable to work, Raweh has been forced to go out to work.
Every day, the mother of five wakes early in the morning to buy zucchinis and leeks from the market in Taiz, before going house to house to resell her goods.
“In the beginning, it was difficult to work selling vegetables, but it was my only choice as I faced the difficulties of trying to eke out a living for my family,” she told Arab News.
The dire economic situation and hardship caused by the four-year conflict in Yemen has added to the burden faced by many women — and brought a dramatic shift in gender roles. Women such as Raweh have had to break taboos in their conservative society by going out to work in order to support their families.
Before the war, which has killed more than 10,000 people and sparked a vast humanitarian crisis, it was rare for women in many areas to leave their homes and interact with men in public places.
“We have a difficult choice: Either work or see our families starve to death — so many women, including myself, decided to work,” Raweh said.
“I have been selling vegetables since 2016, so now I have my regular customers and I have adapted to the work.”
Her husband, Mohammed Moqbel, worked as a deliveryman in the Taiz markets before his injury. Now, however, he lies immobile in their small house while Raweh goes out to work. She wants to help him, but his treatment costs too much.
“I took my husband to many public hospitals in Taiz city, but doctors confirmed that they cannot help, telling me to take my husband to Aden or abroad,” said Raweh, who is in her 40s.
“I am a poor woman and cannot pay for his treatment, so I brought my husband to the house and Allah will help us.”
Raweh decided to start working after she saw other women selling vegetables, perfumes, bread and other items.
Naef Nouraddin, a social worker in the education office in Taiz, said the war has forced many women to venture out in order to make a living.
“Food is the most important thing for people, so when women lose their breadwinners and they don’t find someone to help, immediately they choose to work,” he told Arab News.
“Either they work or they see their family starve. So they usually choose work.”
Amani Abdullah, in her 20s, had no choice but to work when her father died in Taiz in 2016, after a lengthy battle with liver cancer. As the eldest child in her family, she needed to look after her four siblings.
“My father used to work in a car workshop together with my younger brother, but after my father’s death, I decided to give my younger brother a chance to complete his studies,” she said.
Abdullah graduated from the National Institute in the Al Turba area in Taiz. When she needed work, she decided to set up a small stationery stand near the institute.
“A philanthropist helped me with some money, so early in 2017, I opened this small stationery stall and now I can take care of my family,” she said, showing off her goods.
Before starting the stall, she worried how people would react to her, a single woman, working outside. But she soon realized that people felt sympathy and did not judge her for working.
Bilal Al-Sharafi, a pupil at the National Institute, said that many fellow students buy their stationery from Abdullah because they want to help her open a bigger shop in future.
“It’s true that I did not see a girl working in a stationery stand before this, but I support this idea and hope to see more girls working in such settings,” Al-Sharafi said.


Case of slain Libyan rebel commander opens old wounds in oil producer

Updated 16 October 2018
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Case of slain Libyan rebel commander opens old wounds in oil producer

  • The unsolved killing of Abdel Fattah Younes by suspected fellow fighters in 2011 caused deep rifts inside the rebel camp
  • The investigation risks stirring new tensions between eastern Libya and a U.N.-backed administration in Tripoli

BENGHAZI: Eastern Libyan authorities have resumed an investigation into the unexplained killing of a top rebel commander in the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi, a case that could reopen old wounds.
The unsolved killing of Abdel Fattah Younes by suspected fellow fighters in 2011 caused deep rifts inside the rebel camp of the kind that have marked the turmoil and violence gripping Libya ever since.
The investigation risks stirring new tensions between eastern Libya, controlled by the forces of General Khalifa Haftar, and a U.N.-backed administration in the capital Tripoli.
Haftar ordered the eastern military prosecutor to "immediately and urgently reopen the investigation" of the killing of Younes and two others slain in 2011, according to a decree posted late on Monday.
A previous investigation launched in 2011 had named as prime suspect Ali Essawi, who was deputy prime minister during the uprising at a rebel transitional authority which took over power from Gaddafi.
A court later dropped the case against Essawi and other suspects. But Essawi resurfaced into the spotlight when Tripoli-based Prime Minister Fayez appointed him as economy minister this month.
His appointment had sparked angry reactions from Younes's Obeidat tribe and a second eastern-based tribe, who warned in comments published on local media that the move was a provocation.
Both tribes are among the most powerful in the east and allied to Haftar, who has conquered most of eastern Libya.
The United Nations has been trying to mediate between east and west in a bid to overcome divisions and prepare the North African country for elections.
France had been pushing for the vote in December but recent fighting between rival groups in Tripoli and a lack of a constitutional basis has dimmed the prospect.
Younes was for years part of Gaddafi's inner circle.
He defected at the start of the uprising in February 2011 and became the military chief of the rebellion, a move opposed by other rebels who had suffered under the old regime.
His death caused deep rifts within the rebellion, exposing tensions between Islamists - whom Gaddafi fiercely suppressed during his 42-year dictatorship - and secularists and former army figures, with various factions accusing each other of responsibility.
The circumstances of his killing remain murky, but it is known that he was slain in July 2011 after rebel leaders summoned him back from the front line to Benghazi, the eastern city and cradle of the uprising.