There is an increasingly desperate situation for women and girls across most aspects of life in Yemen.
This is further compounded by gaps in the response to their needs. From immediate and life-threatening concerns to deteriorating gender relations, being a woman or girl in Yemen has become even more challenging.
Despite the deteriorating circumstances, there are some glimmers of hope that have emerged, pointing to how the current uncertainty created by the conflict can provide windows to change gender norms over the long term.
Introduction Since March 2015, the escalation of the armed conflict in Yemen has catapulted the entire population into a humanitarian catastrophe. Over 13 million people need immediate life-saving assistance, and with the conflict unresolved the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate. Even before the crisis, Yemen was the poorest country in the Middle East, and as the conflict drags on, the economy continues to suffer – Yemen’s GDP shrunk by almost 35 percent in 2015. Any fragile development gains that had been achieved over the past several decades are quickly eroding.
Humanitarian actors are working to respond to this enormous crisis, and to date, close to 100 humanitarian actors are operating inside Yemen. Despite Yemen being one of the most challenging operating environments in the world, more than 8 million Yemenis in all 22 governorates in Yemen received some form of life-saving assistance in 2015.
While the conflict has affected the entire population of Yemen, it is important to recognize the unique impact it is having on women and girls. Gender inequality and the specific barriers faced by Yemeni women and girls in achieving their full potential have long been recognized as both underlying and direct causes of food insecurity, undernutrition, and poverty in Yemen. Since 2006, Yemen has ranked last in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap (145 out of 145 countries in 2015). Prior to the conflict CARE and other organizations made positive progress in addressing the inequalities facing Yemeni women and girls working particularly on women and girls’ empowerment and preventing gender-based violence. However, advances made in recent years to address inequality in Yemen have come under severe strain during the conflict because of rising violence and lack of necessary goods and services. One concern is that in the absence of systematic analysis of and planning for gender-associated risks, humanitarian programming could be at best ineffective and at worst do harm by being blind to these concerns.
In order to ensure gender-sensitive programming, the specific needs of women and girls must first be articulated. In November 2015, CARE and GenCap conducted a scoping study to review and assess available information on the impact of the conflict on gender roles and relations, and consequently, the different needs of women, girls, men and boys. It found that while there was good pre-conflict information on gender issues in Yemen, most assessments conducted since March 2015 have been gender-blind.
To address this information gap, CARE, Oxfam, and GenCap jointly conducted a gender assessment to analyze the impact of conflict on gender dynamics in Yemen. Through this assessment, researchers conducted 554 household interviews, 40 focus group discussions, 32 in-depth interviews with individuals and officials, and a secondary data review. The assessment covered some of the hardest hit areas – Aden, Taiz, Hajjah, and Abyan governorates.
The findings of the gender assessment are intended to inform program development to address the specific needs and changing roles of women, girls, men, and boys and to strengthen gender equity and equality. The assessment goes well beyond this, however, providing a concrete evidence base to illustrate the importance of supporting a comprehensive Gender in Emergencies (GiE) approach in Yemen. The data points to a need for greater investment in women and girls across the aid sector, both in emergency response and longer-term programming, to ensure the highest quality programming and greatest impact on the Yemeni people today and for years to come