Single educated Yemeni women hard at work to secure opportunities

9 Dec
More young women in Yemen are enrolling at universities and getting job opportunities. Female students at universities are up from 20 percent in 1990 to 37.5 percent in 2010. Photo by Sadeq Al-WesabiBy: Malak Shaher

Yemen Times

Published:09-12-2010

For Abeer Abdulla, a university student in her early twenties, completing her education and finding a job are more important than getting married.The dream of the majority of young women in Yemen, especially those who are educated, has shifted from getting married to getting a job.

This has increased the number of women in the labor force. Now, 63 percent of women in urban areas are either already working, or plan to in the future, according to a survey conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).

The survey data was collected from 1,993 women and 508 men in June and July 2010.

“I want to be financially independent. For me education and work are more important than marriage,” said Abeer Ahmad.

“Most of the time when a woman gets married in Yemen, she is asked by her husband to stop studying if she is a student, or stop working if she is an employee.”

While few women in Yemen participate in the workforce, more are interested in pursuing a career and this is particularly true among younger women. Women who study at university and engage in paid work are more likely to have the freedom to leave home, have greater financial security and access to credit, according to the survey.

The study mentioned that labor force participation among Yemeni women, both educated and uneducated, is extremely low, particularly when compared to men.

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

The survey by IWPR and IFES pointed out that participation in the workforce is higher among more educated women. Around 21 percent of women with high school and 48 percent of women with a university degree are working in the public or private sector.

Despite cultural traditions that restrict women entering the workforce in Yemen, factors such as income, access to educational facilities, and marital status may also influence a women’s choice to work. Around 38 percent of women in rural areas who were included in the survey intended to pursue a career.

“Women in Yemen are working hard to gain opportunities, along with men, to help their families and communities,” said Jane Henrici, study director from the IWPR. “More Yemeni women are getting formal education than in the past, and this seems to help with other opportunities.”

Female students represented 37.5 percent of students at universities in 2008, up from 20.5 percent in 1990, according to UNDP’s 2010 Millennium Development Goals Report.

Women with a higher level of education also tend to have greater access to health care. Around 51 percent of women with lower than a primary school education have access to health care. In contrast, 67 percent of women with a university degree or higher have access to health care.

IWPR and IFES conducted the survey research as part of a project on ‘The Status of Women in the Middle East and North Africa’ with funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

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