Saturday, March 20, 2010

Coverage of International Women's Day

International Women's Day fell on March 8th of this month so I covered an event thrown by the US embassy at the National Museum in its honor for Yemen Today. You can read about the event below:

International Women’s Day, Brought to You by Sana’a
On March 8th of every year since its recognition by the UN 1975, women in various regions of the world are acknowledged for their achievements as individuals who are making positive contributions to the welfare and progress of their society. The connotations of this day are significant on an international scale, but for women living in countries where the acquisition of the most basic of human rights is a struggle, International Women’s Day is an emblem not only of what has been achieved, but of what can be.
Nowhere else is this more relevant than in Yemen, where women are making bold strides in the midst of a country that earned the lowest ranking in gender inequality out of the 130 countries cited in the 2008 World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report. To properly commemorate the occasion the US Embassy co-organized an event with the group Kuni wa Kun (a youth-led initiative) at the National Museum on Monday, March 8, 2010. The celebration centered on the recognition of six outstanding Yemeni women, but also included an art gallery displaying unique pieces either by or in honor of women and women’s rights, in addition to a musical performance.
Doors opened at 8:30am and speeches commenced at 9:00am, beginning with Amal al-Ashtal of Kuni wa Kuni who provided a brief statement on International Women’s Day and its relation to Yemeni society and youth. She was followed by Abdul Aziz al-Jindari, director of the National Museum, who spoke of the status of women throughout ancient history in correlation with the museum’s anticipated exhibit featuring Yemen's ancient queens: Arwa, Balqees, and Saba'a.
Angie Bryan, Deputy Chief of Mission at the US embassy, provided the keynote speech, briefly touching on the history of International Women’s Day and connecting it to women’s rights in Yemen at present. She mentioned areas of concern in Yemen, but also provided examples of progress, citing quotes by United States President Obama, introducing initiatives on the part of USAID, and honoring six women who’ve displayed exceptional leadership and initiative in furthering women’s rights in Yemen with a certificate of "Courage," signed by U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Stephen Seche. The women recognized included:
Nujood al-Ahdal, who was married at 9 years of age to a man three times that who inflicted emotional and physical abuse. She sought human rights lawyer, Shada Nasser, who represented Nujood in court where she was granted a divorce.
Reem al-Numery, at 12 years old, was forced to marry her 30-year-old cousin and was also able to achieve a divorce from the Yemeni Court System.
Tawakul Karman, Chairman of the NGO "Women Journalists without Chains," works in defense of freedom of the press and human rights in Yemen. Additionally, she is the only women out of the 13 members on the "Shura Council" of the Islah party, and the first activist to launch in 2007 the "Phase of Protests and Sit-ins" in Yemen.
Arwa Ali Saeed Abdullah, who at 10 years of age, lost both of her legs in a land mine accident while roaming the hillsides of her city, works with Yemen's Association of Landmine Survivors as an advocate for the victims of landmines.
Fatima al-Agel, a woman who has been striving to defend the rights of disabled girls for more than 17 years, established the first school for blind females in 1995. She founded the Al Amaan Foundation for Disabled Females' Care in 1995 and currently works with some 800 females across Yemen to integrate disabled girls into schools, universities and the workforce.
Jamala al-Baidhani founded the Altahade Association for Disabled Females to help girls with disabilities in Yemen. Despite disabilities of her own, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Sciences and in 2006, launched the Alesrar NGO for Youth Development, which enlists volunteers to work on behalf of disabled people.
Once the speeches were concluded, Angie Bryan and Abdul Aziz initiated the opening of the art gallery officially by cutting the ribbon draped across the entrance. The gallery held various exhibits, including paintings, miniatures of traditional customs and practices, silver work, and caricatures. The artists featured included:
Jumana al-Shami, Areej al-Eryani, Ali al-Ma’abari, Howaida al-Kibsi, Sara al-Sami’i, Kamal Sharaf, Arwa al-Yarimi, and Nawal al-Mutwakil.

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