On Tuesday 29th March 2022, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women, Peace and Security (APPG-WPS) hosted an event in collaboration with the APPG on Yemen, and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) titled “Women in Yemen: Participation in Peacebuilding” chaired by Flick Drummond MP, co-chair of the APPG-WPS and co-chair of the APPG on Yemen. The event gave the APPG the space to discuss the gendered impact of conflict on women and girls in Yemen, the need for more inclusive peacebuilding mechanisms, and how the donor community can better support women’s rights organisations and civil society organisations through funding.
The event heard from: Salma Kahale, Middle East and North Africa Director at Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Nesmah Mansour, a founding member of Peace Track Initiative, Maha Awadh, Chairperson of Wogood for Human Security Foundation and Bahia Al-Saqaf, the Executive Director of Peace for Sustainable Societies PASS Foundation.
Salma began our event by highlighting the importance of having a strong feminist movement in Yemen that advocates, networks and influences the WPS agenda and peace processes. Salma outlined how WILPF supports Yemeni women rights organisations through flexible funding that can be used to respond to the changing needs of women and girls as the conflict and humanitarian crisis continues, and how funding like this is vital for sustainable change. Salma discussed how the WPS agenda in Yemen and the region as a whole has been side-lined and reduced into “add-ons”, rather than being meaningfully incorporated into the foundation of peace processes and mechanisms, adding that Yemeni women are creating new processes such as the Feminist Roadmap for Peace that will not only fill this gap but redefine what decision-making tables look like.
Nesmah followed Salma to expand on the Feminist Roadmap for Peace in more detail, plus she provided updates from the Yemen Humanitarian Summit that occurred in Geneva earlier in the month, and briefly discussed the Yemeni National Action Plan (NAP). Nesmah discussed the origins of the Feminist Roadmap for Peace as a rights-based approach for peace that considered the different sides of the conflict and what peace looked like for them. Nesmah added that the inclusive language in the Feminist Roadmap for Peace was echoed in the UN Security Council Resolution 2624 that was adopted in February 2022. Nesmah had attended the Humanitarian Summit in Geneva and expressed disappointment that yet again, women’s rights issues were reduced to side events and there was not enough mainstreaming for gender issues. Finally, Nesmah introduced the Yemeni NAP, outlining some of its positives and negatives, and added that there was a call on International Women’s Day for its institutional restructure.
Maha followed on by discussing in more detail the implementation challenges of the Yemeni NAP. Maha outlined that the NAP was adopted in 2019 in order to enhance the administrative identity of the WPS agenda and enable women’s participation. Despite this, the NAP has a variety of shortcomings which has meant it has not been implemented effectively. Maha added that the Yemeni government must view WPS as a priority and must promote women’s advocacy capabilities and capacity to influence decision making. Maha also stresses that there must be an active role for civil society organisations in NAP implementation, and that the Yemeni government needs to have an open channel of communication with feminist groups.
Finally, Bahia discussed in detail the current human rights situation for women on the ground in Yemen and the necessity of funding for the WPS agenda. Bahia stressed that the conflict in Yemen has exacerbated existing suffering for women and has led to large numbers of women and children displaced, pushed into marriage and dropping out of school. Bahia added that women’s rights to dignity and security, equal participation and education are being undermined. Bahia spoke to the need for flexible long term and sustainable funding that are readily available and that reach women directly. Bahia also discussed other recommendations including the promotion of feminist civil society organisations, and dialogue with the government to ensure that any and all budgets and programmes are gender sensitive.
The event wrapped up with questions from the audience on what can be improved when it comes to funding from the international community, and how women in Yemen can become involved in high-level decision-making. All panellists emphasised the need for flexible funding to respond to emerging needs for Yemeni women and making sure that there is an effort to change the mindsets of the international community to ensure that there is an understanding of why women’s inclusion will be necessary in peace processes. Flick Drummond MP added that she will be taking the thoughts from this meeting to the Foreign Secretary to see what more can be done by the UK to help. Baroness Fiona Hodgson, co-chair of the APPG-WPS, concluded the event and shared her thanks to the speakers. The event provided the excellent opportunity to hear directly from Yemeni women peacebuilders and to hear their recommendations and challenges to the international community.