Arab Spring worsened situation of women in Yemen: Oxfam

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A group of women protesting in Yemen. Photo –

A leading international humanitarian organisation has warned that women in Yemen are worse off than before the uprising that ousted long-time dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh as the country mires in deep crises.

In its latest report, entitled “Still waiting for change,” Oxfam said “four out of five” Yemeni women report that their “lives have worsened over the last 12 months.” The findings were based on a series of focus group discussions held throughout the country.

“Although a transition towards democracy is under way, women’s hopes for a better life are wearing thin,” the report said, adding that a “deepening humanitarian crisis and conflict are limiting women’s role in shaping Yemen’s future.”

“The humanitarian crisis is making a bad situation worse for women by exacerbating deep-rooted gender inequalities,’ it added.

According to the report, a quarter of Yemeni women aged between 15 and 49 are “acutely malnourished,” with women of “all economic backgrounds” reporting access to food, jobs and security as “their priorities.”

Continued conflict and insecurity throughout much of the troubled country is further ‘exposing women to violence and risking their safety,” the report argued.

Though much of Yemen is struggling to cope with the country’s dire humanitarian conditions, women and children are often those who suffer the most.

“Women are resorting to desperate and destructive coping mechanisms,” said Oxfam. “They are reducing their own food intake and eating less nutritious food so there is more for their families.”

In extreme cases, women have been forced into prostitution.

Yemeni women have been consistently ranked at the bottom in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap in “access to health, education, economic opportunities and decision making at all levels,” the aid agency added.

Insufficient international aid is further aggravating the situation.

Global donors made aid pledges worth $6.4 billion to Yemen at a donors conference earlier this month in the Saudi capital Riyadh, only half of what the Yemeni government was asking for to support its transition phase.

The country’s humanitarian needs, meanwhile, are also underfunded.

The United Nations, in partnership with international NGOs, has launched an emergency appeal for $585 million for 2012. To date, it is only 48.5% funded.

Oxfam also called on donor nations to “immediately allocate” already pledged funds and “fully fund” the UN’s humanitarian appeal.

A summit on Yemen is to be held on 27 September on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York where the country’s fragile political transition and humanitarian crisis are expected to dominate the discussions.

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