In this Issue

- Parents Learn the Value of Girls’ Education in Yemen


Parents Learn the Value of Girls’ Education in Yemen


In September 2008, the Young Women Leaders project launched with the goal of building the knowledge, skills, and leadership abilities of women's rights advocates in the Gulf region.  Through a mentoring network hosted by the Lebanese American University (LAU), 20 male and female civil society activists from Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen came together to develop advocacy plans with a focus on advancing women's rights in the Gulf.


In 2009, the project held a two-week training seminar in Beirut, during which the participants spent time at various LAU institutes learning new skills for promoting women’s issues.  During this training course, participants from three of the countries (Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen) developed projects to implement in their home countries.  Each country group was allotted approximately $12,000 in small grant funding to implement their projects over the course of a year, with assistance from a local mentor and a local women's organization.  The Bahrain group is implementing a project to promote gender equality under the country's national insurance laws, and the Saudi team is designing curriculum to help women start their own businesses and setting up a series of professional skills seminars for young women university students preparing to enter the workforce. 

MEPI staff was delighted to learn of the progress of the Yemen group’s project, “Keeping Girls in School,” which is working with Yemeni NGO the Family Social Association for Development (FAD) to keep young girls enrolled in school beyond their primary education years through the promotion of girls’ rights in newly formed parent and student councils.  These councils were established in two schools in the Sana’a governorate district of Bani al-Hareth.  As a result of the student and parent councils, two fathers -- whose daughters had dropped out of school the previous year -- promised to allow them to return, and another father, who was considering withdrawing his daughter from school after she completed her primary education, was persuaded to keep her enrolled once he attended an awareness session sponsored by the project.  In addition, a group of committed parents began holding their own awareness sessions for other parents whose daughters had dropped out of school, and had not yet re-enrolled, to try to convince them to allow the girls to return.  The parents also collected money locally to pay for maintenance for the school buildings, for school furniture repairs, and for the construction of girls-only restroom facilities. 

The Yemen project has succeeded in opening a dialogue between parents, students, school administrators, and teachers.  They learned from each others’ point of views and developed an advocacy booklet for public dissemination on the issue of keeping girls in schools.   During a public workshop in Sana’a on July 15, Shadia Al -Hubaishi, the executive manager of FAD, emphasized the necessity of girls’ education, stating, “Illiterate citizens are unable to participate politically, vote or run for a position.”  This is particularly critical in Yemen, where women’s illiteracy rates exceed 50%.  Unemployment rates are equally high.  Al-Hubaishi added, “uneducated women are unable to work, which means low productivity as well as low income.”  LAU supported this project with guidance and mentoring from the Academy for Educational Development (AED), an NGO that also runs a very successful student council project in Yemen using MEPI funds. 

When the “Keeping Girls in School” project is completed in December 2010, the two parent and student councils intend to continue their work with support from Yemen’s Ministry of Education in an effort to keep as many girls in school as possible.
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