Sanaa, Yemen – A poll (full presentation (PDF)) conducted by the Arab Women’s Leadership Institute (AWLI) and the Arab World for Research and Development (AWRAD) before the forced resignation of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his Cabinet shows that there is much work to be done in changing the view towards women in powerful decision-making roles.
While the poll revealed that 68 percent of women and 41 percent of men believe women’s political participation was moving in the right direction, it showed that women continue to face formidable challenges in breaking Yemen’s social and cultural barriers to attain positions of influential political leadership. To address these challenges, more must be done to support the development and presence of strong women’s political organizations in the country.
“Women’s political empowerment enables women to take an active part in making decisions that directly impact their lives and communities, and lifts them from a marginalized group of society to their rightful place as equal citizens,” says Erika Veberyte, director of IRI’s Women’s Democracy Network.
Support for Women as Decision Makers Falls Short
When asked if two equally qualified candidates, a man and woman, were running for parliamentary elections, who you would vote for, only 11 percent of men said they would vote for a woman. This percentage is marginally higher than last year’s poll (PDF), in which nine percent of men said they would vote for a woman if equally qualified. Furthermore, a majority of both men (93 percent) and women (93 percent) answered no to ever having voted for a women for elected office.
While a majority of both men (59 percent) and women (75 percent) also support the inclusion of a 30 percent gender quota in parliament, as stipulated through the country’s National Dialogue Conference, the poll revealed a clear distinction between support for women in positions yielding significant political power versus more modest positions of leadership. A majority of male respondents opposed or strongly opposed women in the positions of:
President (men 81 percent, women 64 percent)
- Prime Minister (men 68 percent, women 48 percent)
- Leader of a political party (men 66 percent, women 53 percent)
- High ranking member of the military (men 84 percent, women 69 percent)
Judge (men 60 percent, women 46 percent)
However, the majority of respondents supported or strongly supported women in the positions of:
- Local council member (men 60 percent, women 76 percent)
- Member of parliament (men 59 percent, women 72 percent)
- Union leader (men 57 percent, women 71 percent)
Ministerial position (men 59 percent, women 72 percent)
Yemeni women should take encouragement that a majority of both men and women support the idea of women as parliamentarians and in ministerial posts, however, more must be done to help women achieve these positions.
Groups Committed to Women’s Political Leadership Must Be Strengthened
A greater number of respondents believed that women’s civil society organizations make a positive contribution towards improving women’s economic livelihoods but not increasing women’s political participation. When asked, 45 percent responded yes, organizations contribute positively towards improving women’s economic livelihoods, compared with 38 percent of respondents who said women’s organizations contribute positively towards improving women’s political participation. Only 13 percent of respondents stated they knew of organizations that work in the field of women’s political rights, this included twice as many males, 18 percent, than females, seven percent.
In 2008, IRI established AWLI, to assist Arab women achieve their leadership aspirations. A strong network of Arab women, AWLI believes that if women have greater knowledge about the impediments and opportunities that they face in the political sphere they will be better equipped to increase women’s political participation in their country.
Motivated by this belief, AWLI and AWRAD conducted the research to give emerging Yemeni women leaders the information needed to increase their engagement in the political process.
The national survey was conducted by AWRAD in cooperation with local Yemeni polling firm the Percent Corporation for Polling Research & Transparency Promotion. A total of 18 representatives from both organizations conducted face-to-face interviews from December 2 – 15, 2014, and two focus groups with 16 participants on January 13, 2015. Respondents were a random sample of 1,100 Yemeni citizens. The margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus three percent.
The poll was funded the National Endowment for Democracy. This is AWLI’s second published survey since the program’s inception in 2008.