THE FORGOTTEN FRONTLINE: WOMEN AT WAR IN YEMEN


 

In situations of war, women and children suffer some of the utmost health and social inequities. The effects of war on these groups go far beyond the conflicts itself. They are the victims of human rights violations, suffering and are often innocent casualties of war. At the end, women and children bear the greatest consequences of war.

United Nations reports have shown that three months after conflict flared up in Yemen that violence is still escalating across the country. Over 2,800 people have been killed; over a million people have been exiled, with many forced to flee by armed fighters, bombings and airstrikes.

Women have been unduly affected by the conflict. Their access to indispensable services, livelihood and protection needs are limited and have been complicated by gender inequalities.

According to Amnesty International’s report, at least 6 children under the age of 10 were killed in airstrikes in Sana’a on 26th March. In wealthier nations, incidences such as these are rare and when they do occur, it makes headlines. This is simply one of many episodes where the innocent women and children of Yemen have paid the heavy price of western-backed airstrikes and internal conflict in the country.

Yemeni women carry stories of sadness because of the social and economic consequence that the war has had on their lives; some of them were forced to marry and others have been victims of continuous violent incidents. And they are forced to accept these conditions as they have no other choice.

Violence has always been a significant issue facing women in Yemen. In the country’s 2013 demographic and health survey, 92% of women claimed that violence against women mostly happened at home.

This current internal conflict in Yemen has even degenerated conditions for women. Many Yemeni women are struggling on how to support and finance their families, when their husbands have gone to fight. Others have been exiled, with little or no access to health services, education and work opportunities.

As women and children are typically the most affected by war-conflict, it is hence vital that women play a fundamental role in peace discussions and post-conflict renewal. However, women continue to be absent from formal peace negotiations in the Middle East and especially in Yemen. There is little space open for women to engage in peaceful protests, and this is not because women lack the resolution to fight for peace, but rather, it is caused by the male-controlled mentality of Saudi-inspired Salafism that has detached women from participation in building a peaceful society in Yemen.

Meanwhile, Yemeni women whom are peace activists have been calling for forces outside the country to help find a resolution to the fighting and to help obstruct the internal conflict that has shaped an unrelenting humanitarian crisis.

The effects of war will remain for years after the conflict ends. Women have become widowed and children orphaned. Women face struggles to cope with the livelihood needs of their families.

The crucial role of women in development, peace, security and human rights cannot be denied. Thus, it is of the utmost importance that women should play a noteworthy role in limiting the effects of violence. Women must be actively engaged in the peace process at the regional, national, and local levels.

While women remain a minority, everyone will continue to suffer.

Sana AFOUAIZ

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