Archive | November, 2010

What you didn’t know about Yemeni names

25 Nov
Cartoon be Nabel Al-QanesMalak ShaherPublished:25-11-2010
For a beautiful woman like Nae’m, the only thing that bothers her day and night is her name. In spite of the fact that it means ‘blessing’, the name is only given to boys not girls, especially in Yemen.“I am a girl, not a boy. I really hate my name and want to change it,” said 20 year-old Nae’m.

Sadly, there are many girls in a similar position to Nae’m who hate their names.

In most Yemeni families the father chooses the names of their children, not the mothers. However, women do have some chance to name their daughters. Heba Mohammad, 33, said that her husband gave her the chance to name their daughters but not their sons.

When it comes to naming a son Mohammad, parents usually don’t have any objection. Mohammad, the name of the Islamic prophet, is represented in almost every Muslim house. “My husband and I named one of our sons Mohammad because I love the Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him,” said Heba Salem. “I would like my son to be as good as the prophet was.”

Yemenis have witnessed, and continue to witness, wars and tense situations. This has been reflected in the naming of children. During the revolution of 1962, the names Burkan (volcano), Thaer (revolutionary) and Sharar (spark), were common.

The names Maxim, Lenin and Alexander, all of Russian origin, were common names during the seventies and eighties when the Yemeni Socialist Party ruled the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, and had close connections with the Communist Party in the former Soviet Union.

“I have never liked my name,” said Maxim Sa’eed. “I live among people whose names are Mohammad, Ali or Ahmad, and that’s why I felt I had to change my name.” Maxim changed his name to Mohammad in 2007.

According to a study on names in the Yemeni community by Abdul Wahed Al-Zumor, the names of different weapons are commonly given to children, especially in areas that have experienced war or violent situations. In Sa’ada, where wars have raged and tribal revenge is common, names like Qunbula (grenade), Shafra (knife) and Bazooka are very common.

Most unpleasant names are given to babies because of the common belief that cute babies may be affected by the ‘evil eye’. This comes from the superstition that a curse, directed for reasons of envy, can be bestowed upon a child by a malicious look. It is believed that the ‘evil eye’ can cause bad luck, injury or even death. A bad name reflects the parents’ belief in, and their intention to prevent, the ‘evil eye’.

Some families believe unpleasant names will safeguard their young babies. Deaths shortly after birth are not uncommon. As a result, parents give their prospective babies unpleasant names believing it will protect them.

“I lost three babies when they were only six or seven months old. I gave them good names but they died,” said a middle-aged woman from Sana’a. “My last baby’s name is Sho’a (ugly), and she is now seven years old.”

The study listed names such as Kurheya and Makrooha (hated by people), and Kheibah (ugly) as names to prevent death and enhance survival. In Yemen, people also believe that if a baby keeps crying, his or her name should be changed, because it means the baby does not like its name.

“My grandmother told me that I kept crying for three months after my birth. My name was Fatima and my grandmother told my parents to change my name as she believed I did not like the name,” said Yasmeen Hossain. “They changed my name to Yasmeen and I stopped crying,” she added smilingly.

The agricultural environment also affects people’s choice of baby names, especially for girls. Names such as: Nabata (a very small plant), Qirfa (cinnamon), Hila (cardamom), Lawzah (almond), Sailah, (canal), Zaitoonah, (olive), Inabah, (grape) and Firkisah (peach), are popular.

In many parts of Yemen, but especially common in Taiz and Sa’ada, people name their children after continents, countries and famous cities. You may encounter names like Italia (Italy), Efriqia (Africa), Asia, Amrika (America) and Espania (Spain).

The majority of people in Yemen name their first child after their father or mother. In most cases, fathers are the ones who have the right to name their children unless the parents have agreed otherwise.

“I named my first son after my father, Ali, and my father named me after his father, Ahmad,” said Ahmad Ali.

It has become traditional in families that the first son names his first baby after his father. In this case, you may encounter a person whose name is Ali Ahmad Ali Ahmad, and the chain continues


The 20th Gulf Cup in Aden opens

22 Nov
The Yemeni Football Team in Aden before playing a friendly match against Uganda.

Malak ShaherPublished:22-11-2010

SANA’A, Nov. 21 — Lights and the flags of Yemen, Iraq and the Gulf countries are on the streets and crossroads in Aden and Abyan to welcome the participating teams in the 20th Gulf Cup.

President Saleh will open the 20th Gulf Cup today at the ‘22 May Stadium’ in Aden where the first match will be between Yemen and Saudi Arabia. The second match will be between Qatar and Kuwaiti on Monday at 10 pm.

The matches will be played in Aden and Abyan which are ready to host the 20th Gulf cup as planned for. The cup is to start on Monday 22 Nov. continuing through to 5 Dec. 2010.

This is the first time since the Gulf Cup started in 1970 that it will be held in Yemen. In spite of rumors that Yemen is incapable of hosting the cup due to the unstable situation in the country’s south, the Yemeni government has been working hard to guarantee the maximum possible security precautions.

President Saleh has been checking the hotels and tourist complexes for four days before the opening. Saleh met with the Yemeni team and urged them to play hard and win the cup, as all Yemenis wished them to win.

“Our hearts are with you. We trust your enthusiasm, your love for your country and that you want to lift its name high,” Saleh said, according to the Al-Arabia website.

The Gulf teams started arriving in Yemen on Friday and started training on the same day  at the Al-Telal Club.

Along with the teams, around 12,000 cars have entered Yemen from the Gulf and more than 1,500 media representatives have come to cover the cup events, according to the Yemen Satellite channel.

The Yemeni ambassador to Saudi Arabia said that holding the 20th Gulf cup in Yemen would strengthen the ties between Yemen and the Gulf Council Countries and Iraq.

The head of the Referee Committee, Gamal Al-Ghandoor, told Saba news agency that the situation in Yemen is safe and secure in spite of what has been about Yemen in some media outlets. He also said that the Yemeni people are peace-loving and generous.

Yemen has been participating in the cup since the 16th tournament which was held in Kuwait in 2003. Since then it has participated in the 17th cup in Qatar, the 18th in UAE and the 19th in Oman.

Yemen’s team is joined by seven others including those from Bahrain, Iraq, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

The Gulf Cup was founded by Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia during the 1968 Olympics in Mexico. The first Cup was held in Bahrain in 1970 and was won by Kuwait

The many dangers of Yemen’s water shortage

15 Nov
Hana and Bushra struggle to carry water to their families on a perilous mountain track near a village in Taiz governorate.Photo by Mahmoud AssamieeMalak ShaherPublished:15-11-2010

In the best case scenario water is carried on a donkey’s back, but in most parts of Yemen, it is largely women who take up the burden of climbing up and down mountains to fetch water from springs and deliver it to their houses.For Hanan Hizam and Bushra Aqlan, two teenage neighbors who live on the peak of a mountain in Same’, Taiz governorate, getting water for their families is an arduous task.

Every day they clamber down the mountain side to reach a small river, where they fill their 20 litre water containers, place them on their heads, and climb back up the mountain. The number of journeys they must take each day depends on their families’ needs, but each trip takes just over an hour.

The two girls were filmed by a French organization, What’s Up Productions, that came to Yemen in June 2010 to conduct a study on the shortage of water. In the video posted on their website, Hanan said that a girl from their village had broken her leg and another had broken her arm on the same journey they do every day. She looks into the camera pleading to the government to help them get better access to water.

Water access in rural areas

Nearly 50 percent of those living in villages and remote parts of Yemen depend on springs, wells, or water trucks, according to a report by the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation published in 2010. But wells and water trucks are not always good alternatives for those living in rural areas. Wells are often unclean and water truck deliveries are expensive.

“The water truck in our village in Taiz costs YR 10,000 (USD 50) because my family lives very far from the city centre. They struggle a lot to obtain clean water,” said Mahmoud Saeed who currently lives in Sana’a.

A report titled ‘The Voice of the Poor’ released by Oxfam in partnership with the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation has noted that water scarcity has placed enormous pressures on farmers, some of whom have had to abandon food crops for cash crops such as qat. This brings about additional threats to the country’s food security.

The shortage and expense of water has also had negative effects on livestock production as farmers find it harder to water their animals and grow feed for them. This has led to an increase in poverty among communities in some rural areas.

In the remote areas where people do not have easy access to water, girls are increasingly dropping out from school as they have to spend more time collecting water from wells far from their houses, according to Abdu Al-Kubati, a water activist. Furthermore, many poor people in rural areas have resorted to drinking unsafe and contaminated water.

Water shortages in urban areas

There is a growing concern about Yemen’s rapidly depleting water reserves. According to a recent report published by the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED), one third of Yemenis lack access to safe water.

The Minister of Water and Environment, Abdulrahman Al-Eryani, attributes Yemen’s water problems to its rapidly increasing population and to qat cultivation. Faced by shortages of water, those living in villages are leaving for the cities and contributing to Yemen’s already increasing urban population. They also come to the cities seeking work and a better life.

The increase in urban population has gradually resulted in diminishing water reserves in the cities. For example, the Sana’a water basin is running out of water – nearly 40 percent of the underground water supply in the Sana’a basin has already been depleted. The current population in Sana’a is estimated at 3 million, over a million more than a decade earlier.

In the not too distant past, people in the Sana’a basin were digging down 100 feet to hit water, but now they have to dig as deep as 1,000 feet, Al-Eryani mentioned in a workshop held by the ministry in June. Over the last 20 years, the groundwater in Yemen has been pumped up at a rate approximately four times greater than it can be replenished by natural recharge, the AFED report stated.

Water, qat and conflict

According to Professor Abdulla Al-Noman from Sana’a University’s Faculty of Agriculture, the planting of qat is increasing which further exacerbates the stress on water reserves, especially in Sana’a. There are approximately 13,500 wells in Sana’a alone that are dedicated to irrigating qat.

It is estimated that more than 90 percent of the water resources in Yemen are used for irrigation, with 36 percent consumed for watering qat trees alone. Wide-spread illegal well drilling in the Sana’a basin and elsewhere takes further unknown amounts of water.

The groundwater around the capital is depleting fast. The first layer of the basin from 30 to 70 meters has already run dry. Most of the second layer from 70 to 300 meters has been depleted, and the third layer which reaches 900 meters is fast heading towards depletion too, according to Engineer Abdulkhaleq Al-Wan, a public awareness specialist at the Sana’a branch of the National Water Resources Authority.

In fact, there is a real ‘water war’ in Yemen where in some areas people fight over water like the recent conflicts in Amran. Last year, in a small village in Amran governorate, qat farmers wanted to monopolize wells in order to irrigate their farms. As a result, many people were unable to obtain water from the wells they had been dependent on for their own domestic needs.

Arguments and acts of violence flared up between farmers and villages until an agreement was forged between the parties by local elders. Now anyone breaking the water sharing agreement has to pay a fine of YR 5,000 (USD 25).

In Rada’a district, Al-Baidh governorate, conflicts over water used to irrigate qat spilled over into deadly violence a few months ago. Conflict between the Wadi Thah and Al-Mas’oud tribes over a well irrigating qat led to attacks that left 11 people dead, six from Al-Mas’oud and five from Wadi Thah, according to Dhan Al-Rada’i, an eyewitness from a village overlooking the area.

According to a report by the Yemen Armed Violence Assessment (YAVA), violence over land and water kill far more people in Yemen than internal political conflicts. Around 4,000 people are killed over land and water disputes each year.

According to the United Nations, two to three litres of water are required per person per day for drinking, and 20 to 30 litres for other domestic needs. Nowadays, getting this basic minimum is becoming increasingly difficult for many Yemenis.

You can watch What’s Up Productions’ video about Yemen’s water crisis on their website at:

No law to end the harassment against women

8 Nov
Malak Shaher
Yemen Times


There is currently no law in Yemen protecting women against harassment and no fixed punishments currently exist for perpetrators, according to Majed Al-Mathhaji, an activist at Al-Shaqaeq Forum for Defending Women’s Rights.

A report on sexual harassment was published by the Athar Foundation for Development in 2009. It contains the results of a survey of 540 women across five districts in Sana’a, and included women from all walks of life, including housewives, school and university students, public employees and professional working women.

Of those surveyed, 98.9 percent of women said they had been exposed to some sort of harassment in the streets in the four month period of the survey. But less than three percent of the incidents of harassment against women were reported to the authorities.

“Unfortunately, there is no specific article in the law defining the rights of women who’ve been harassed or defining punishments for those doing the harassing,” said Iman Madgha, head of the Athar Foundation. “All they do in the police stations is beat the perpetrator up and impose a fine of more than YR 3,000 in court if they are imprisoned.”

Those women who do report incidents to the police require at least two witnesses to support their claim, according to Yahya Al-Thanebi, the administrative deputy of the 22 May police station. Al-Thanebi explained that punishments for men arrested for harassing women include beatings and having their head shaved.

“If a woman comes to us with two witnesses supporting that someone had harassed her, we would find the man in question, beat him up, shave off his hair and send him to the prosecution,” said Al-Thanebi. “If he repeated the act, we’d beat him up again, shave off his mustache, and send him to the prosecution where they would impose a fine.”

According to Al-Thanebi, the last case reported to them involved a father of five who physically assaulted a woman in Hayel Street in Sana’a. The man was beaten until he cried.

Around 58 percent of women surveyed believed that society will not support them if they report incidents. Only 12 cases were reported to authorities in the four months of the survey, in which nine cases were reported to police centers, two cases to a neighborhood leader, and one case was reported to the woman’s superior, according to report.

Women in Yemen are fearful of telling their families if they’ve been exposed to any kind of harassment as it often means they are then prevented from going out alone. Rana Yahia, 18, was harassed five months ago. Since then, her father has prevented her from going out alone, even in the day.

“I am afraid that my father will now prevent me from going to university next year,” she said. “I regret telling my family what happened to me.”

Harassment causes social, educational and professional problems for many women. The report stated that over 58 percent of the surveyed women said that they were negatively affected socially, or in their education or professional life by harassment. Over 96 percent reported that they were negatively effected psychologically by the harassment.

The most common type of harassment is verbal abuse which was experienced by 90.2% of the women surveyed. Next, 82 percent said they were victims of physical harassment, 65.4 percent said that they were bothered by phone calls, 48.3 said that the perpetrator had exposed themselves, and 30.3 percent experienced stalking.

Two weeks ago, Rasha Ahmad, 23, was on a bus when a man touched her on the shoulders in an intimate way. “I turned around and looked at him in surprise, but he pretended nothing had happened. Unfortunately, no one helped me,” she said.

“Harassment has become an everyday routine in my life, to the point that not hearing verbal harassment in the street is weird. It has become contagious, even small children are entering the world of harassment,” she added.

In response to the issue of harassment of women in 2010, the Athar Foundation with the help of the Ministry of Endowments, asked the mosque’s imams to allocate a couple of minutes in their Friday sermons to tell people that women are their mothers, sisters, wives and daughters and to respect them.

The foundation will carry out the second phase of its awareness campaign in 2011, targeting men and asking them why they harass women. The foundation is also due to present a proposal to parliament out-lining a new law against harassment.


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Economic gender gap slowly decreasing

4 Nov
Women’s contribution to the national economy

Malak ShaherPublished:04-11-2010

SANA’A, Nov. 3 — For a woman with six children like Sameera Mohammad, 45, depending on the salary her husband is not enough to afford the basics. Therefore, she decided to start her own business making incense and selling it.

“Before, my husband’s salary which is YR 50,000 was not enough to afford the basic needs of life. Now my children are not denied of what they need,” said Sameera.

Women like Sameera have increasingly been contributing to the economic activity in Yemen over the past ten years. As more women have become involved in paid work, the gap in the economic contribution to the country between working men and women has gradually decreased.

Women constituted 10.2 percent of the paid workforce in 2010, according to Abdulla Hazza’, head of the Human Resources Department at the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation. This is up from 9.6 percent in 2004, and 7 percent in 1999.

According to Hazza’, agriculture employs 24.3 percent of the workforce in Yemen, of which 45 percent are women. In 1999 almost 49 percent of the paid female workforce were working on farms. By 2004, the percentage of women working in the agricultural sector had dropped to about 46 percent. So whilst more women are entering the workforce, most of the gains are to be found in the non-agricultural sectors.

Women form about half of Yemen’s population of 22 million, according to the 2008 Statistical Yearbook. As the vast majority of women are still not in paid employment, they represent a huge source of economic potential for Yemen.

Some of the increase in women’s participation in the economy comes from government programs promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women. By 2009, the government had assigned two female ministers within the 31 ministers, 84 female judges, and nine general managers at ministries.

In addition, the government has promoted participation of women in political parties such that there are now nine women in the general committees of the various parties. Women now make up 18 percent of university instructors, 22 percent of teachers in schools and represent 25 percent of those working in the media.

The gap between the number of men and women working in the non-agricultural sector is reducing. Whilst poverty has always been one of the motivations driving women into the workforce, government programs have had an an increasing effect in changing the social perspectives on female employment.

“Seven years ago, my father refused to let my sister work. But now life has changed and for many men, preventing their daughters from working has become part of the past. Now I work as a teacher in an English institute,” said Maha Muttahar, 22.

“Nevertheless, sometimes, when women obtain public positions in far away areas, their conservative families prevent them from traveling and living away from them. Consequently, the positions go to men who have no objection to leaving the place they are living,” said Hazza’.

Poverty has counter effects on education

Whilst poverty has pushed more women into paid employment and decreased the economic gap between the sexes, it has had a negative effect in terms of girls enrolling in school. Poor families find it hard to cover the costs of educating their daughters.

For this reason, the Ministry of Education is conducting incentive programs to encourage girls from the poorest rural areas to enroll in schools and complete their studies, according to the Millennium Development Goals Yemen Report 2010.

Incentive programs include exemptions from school fees, distribution of school supplies for female students including school uniforms, and the distribution of food for their families. The number of girls enrolled in schools is slowly increasing. In 1990 girls formed 22.4 percent of students in basic education. By 2008 this had increased to 37.4 percent.

These programs assist the poorest areas in the governorates of Taiz, Ibb, Lahj, Hodeida and Al-Dhale’