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.


Macron and Merkel warn of ‘humanitarian risks’ in Idlib

Russian military support has helped Syrian regime troops to regain control of key cities such as Aleppo. (File/AFP)
Updated 19 August 2018
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Macron and Merkel warn of ‘humanitarian risks’ in Idlib

  • US-backed forces had repelled a raid by Daesh targeting barracks housing American and French troops in eastern Syria
  • Daesh overran large swaths of Syria and Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a “caliphate” in territory it controlled

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced concern Friday about the humanitarian situation in the opposition-held Syrian region of Idlib, which is shaping up be the country’s next big battleground.
In a telephone call the two leaders described the “humanitarian risks” in Idlib, where regime forces have stepped up their bombardments of opposition positions in recent days, as “very high,” according to the French presidency.
They also called for an “inclusive political process to allow lasting peace in the region.”
President Bashar Assad has set his sights on retaking control of the northwestern province of Idlib — the biggest area still in opposition hands after seven years of war.
Last week, regime helicopters dropped leaflets over towns in Idlib’s east, urging people to surrender.
Idlib, which sits between Syria’s Mediterranean coast and the second city Aleppo, has been a landing point for thousands of civilians and rebel fighters and their families as part of deals struck with the regime following successive regime victories.
The UN has called for talks to avert “a civilian bloodbath” in the northern province, which borders Turkey.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said US-backed forces had repelled a raid by Daesh targeting barracks housing American and French troops in eastern Syria.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the US-led coalition supporting them were on high alert after the raid late on Friday at the Omar oil field in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, the Britain-based war monitor said.
“The attack targeted the oil field’s housing, where US-led coalition forces and leaders of the Syrian Democratic Forces are present,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.
Seven terrorists were killed in the attack, which ended at dawn after clashes near the barracks, he added.
Contacted by AFP, neither the US-led coalition nor the Kurdish-led SDF were immediately available for comment.
In October last year, the SDF took control of the Omar oil field, one of the largest in Syria, which according to The Syria Report economic weekly had a pre-war output of 30,000 barrels per day. “It’s the largest attack of its kind since the oil field was turned into a coalition base” following its capture by the SDF, Abdel Rahman said.
Daesh overran large swaths of Syria and Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a “caliphate” in territory it controlled.
But the terrorist group has since lost nearly all of it to multiple offensives in both countries.
In Syria, two separate campaigns — by the US-backed SDF and by the Russia-supported regime — have reduced Daesh’s presence to pockets in Deir Ezzor and in the vast desert that lies between it and the capital.