Feminism in Yemen: “Now is not the time for women.”

To understand a bit about feminism in a country like Yemen, you must first understand what the situation is like for women there. It is a country that has consistently ranked the lowest on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index since 2002 (yes, that is 17 years in a row). Women’s rights and empowerment have never been a priority.

The discrimination against women in Yemen is very complex. 

Women in Yemen are often discriminated against and looked at as inferior to men. It is a conservative and deeply patriarchal society. Inequality doesn’t only come from the culture, but also from the government. With laws that allow women to be married against their will and under the age of 18, laws that allow “honor killings”, and even laws that obligate women to ask for permission from their husbands to go out, violence and discrimination are inevitable. 

Signs of hope are destroyed too soon.

It wasn’t until the Arab spring of 2011, when thousands took to the streets in peaceful protest, that we had a sign of hope for Yemen. Women participated in the protests and demanded equal opportunities and representation. Finally, Yemeni women were shining and breaking stereotypes. The protests resulted in the National Dialogue Conference in 2013, and 30% of its members were women. The conference proposed a new constitution that recognized women as equal citizens, set a 30% quota for them in decision making positions, and tackled some of the most discriminatory laws. This victory, however, was too good to be true.

Everything went downhill when the Houthi Rebels took power in late 2014. Hope was destroyed and there has been ongoing conflict ever since. The intervention of a western-backed military coalition led by Saudi Arabia turned this conflict into the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. And so, women had to survive not only the struggles of being female in Yemen, but also a deadly war that caused thousands of deaths, forced many to flee their homes, and deprived many others of basic needs, healthcare, and access to safe water.

Women’s representation and rights are considered luxuries.

5 years later, and after a number of attempted peace negotiations, there is always one answer whenever the representation and rights of women are brought up: “Now is not the time for women.” As if women’s participation in these negotiations is a luxury and not a necessity. It is the same comment I get on the feminist online platform I founded, The Yemeni Feminist Movement.

The Yemeni Feminist Movement is the first Yemeni feminist online platform. It raises awareness on feminism and discriminatory laws and practices against women in Yemen. When we post about gender equality and the discrimination against women in the Yemeni legistlation, people will often say, “Now is not the time for women’s rights.” They say to me, “We are at war and all you care about is women’s rights?” or “We don’t even have human rights, so now is not the time for women’s rights.”

It is astonishing to me that a lot of people think of human rights as different from women’s rights. As if women aren’t humans! “Let’s focus on human (men’s) rights first and then we will focus on women’s rights later!” It is even more bewildering when people don’t understand the correlation between conflict resolution and equality for women. How can we achieve peace if women aren’t part of peace negotiations? If there is no justice and equality for women? How can we ever be a peaceful country when women aren’t given the same freedom and opportunities as men?

We almost had victory in 2013 because of strong Yemeni women who vocalized their demands and did not take no for an answer. If now is not the time for us Yemeni women to do the same again, when will be?

International Women’s Day in Latin America

On this International Women’s Day in Latin America women march, and then they strike.

Micaela. Pamela. Brenda. Guadalupe. Jordana. Octavia. Agustina. Ingrid. Fátima. Angie. Manuela. Doris. Adriana. Luisa. Ana. Luz. Jesenia. Mónica.

These are just a few of the women and girls who were killed in Latin America in 2020 – a region where there is a new femicide every two hours. There were 1206 registered femicides in Brazil in 2018. In Mexico, there were 1006 registered cases last year. In Argentina there were 68 registered femicides so far this year. It’s time for it to stop.

According to Reuters, “Femicide claims the lives of 12 women a day in Latin America which is home to 14 of the 25 countries with the highest rates of femicide globally but 98% of these killings go unprosecuted.”

Women in Latin America are tired of seeing a new femicide in the news every day.

They’re tired of being afraid and angry all the time. They’re tired of worrying about their safety, of having to check in on their friends, of being alert at all times because they’re not safe in their homes. 

All eyes will be on Latin America this International Women’s Day. Women all over the region are marching this Sunday to demand justice. And on Monday they’re planning to strike — they will stay home from school, work and university and they will avoid making purchases. The goal is to show people what the world would be like without them.

Illustration with the words 'Silencio Nunca Mas'.
Illustration by Laiza Onofre for the International Women’s March in Mexico. See more at undiasinmujeres.mx

Here are some things you can expect to see: 

If you aren’t in the region and want to join them from abroad, like I’ll be doing, you can show your support on social media. There will be plenty of photos, videos and illustrations circulating mainly on Twitter and Instagram. You can also find threads like the “hallada” test, where women searched on Google their names with the word “found” (hallada) and realized they share their names with women who were killed. 

As the feminist movement in Latin America continues to become more powerful and influential, the pressure on governments to implement policy changes grows. I’m excited to see these women speak up for themselves and each other. They broke the silence and now they’re unstoppable.

This International Women’s Day let’s support women in Latin America.

A Word to Men Ahead of International Women’s Day

Feminists around the world have put endless effort into explaining that International Women’s Day is for all people to fight together for gender equality. And while the statement is true, I don’t believe everyone’s job is the same. Every year, ahead of 8th March, there’s heated debate on men’s role in the gender equality movement. Are they doing enough? Are they doing too much?

These are my reflections for all men willing to listen.

Believe in Feminism

Take part in International Women’s Day because you believe in gender equality. It’s not our duty to make you feel included. It certainly is not our responsibility to convince you to fight for women’s rights. I often struggle to find the correct arguments to get men onboard, or the best feminist angle so as not to offend anyone. But I shouldn’t soften my words for the sake of masculinity.

Know your beliefs and own them. Advocate for women’s rights because you want to. Don’t wait for an invitation. Be a feminist because you see the burden of unbalanced gender dynamics and you want to tackle it.

It’s not just about the Women you Love

Whenever a case of sexual assault or domestic violence occurs, it’s common to hear that “it could have happened to your girlfriend/sister/daughter”. It seems like the offence is aggravated by the victim’s relationship to a man. Sure, we’re someone’s relative or friend but our worth doesn’t rely on this kinship. Before someone’s daughter or sister, we are our own selves. Women are deserving of respect, public presence and integrity because we exist.

Don’t march on International Women’s Day for your mother, daughter, girlfriend, wife, sister or female friends. Forget about the women you love for a second. Get involved for the billions of women you don’t know. This is not about someone close to you suffering, it’s about justice for half the world’s population.

Know your Role and Step Back Sometimes

Being an ally to any cause means acknowledging your privilege, offering support and settling for a secondary role to leave space for others to speak up.

Being an ally to women means understanding men’s role in the movement. While you’re welcome to stand at the very front of a march, think twice: do you really have to be right there? Or are you taking someone else’s place? Feminism wants and needs men to be involved but we don’t need you to lead. We can lead. We don’t need you to give us a voice, but we do need you to shush people when they aren’t listening. Shout with us, not for us.

An effective way to take part in International Women’s Day is to contact feminist organisations and offer to volunteer or make a donation. You can also babysit the children of your female friends or relatives so they can fully commit to the day. In your workplace, support female colleagues, employers and employees if they decide to go on a strike. Campaign on social media, don’t mansplain feminism to women and encourage your male friends to march. But mainly, don’t be scared of calling yourself a feminist – it’s a good thing.

Women’s Rights for Everyone

Gender inequality doesn’t just affect women, and it doesn’t affect all women equally. Working class women, BAME women, trans women, lesbian and bi women, Muslim women, older women, female sex-workers, disabled women, women in non-paid domestic jobs, women who don’t adhere to traditional beauty standards, homeless women, migrant and refugee women… All of us struggle in different ways.

Listen, learn and acknowledge the different ways patriarchy constrains women’s rights. Not all discrimination looks the same. So make sure you don’t assume, judge or take anyone for granted. Every single woman should feel as worthy as everyone else. 

Question Yourself

International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to reflect on the invisibility of everyday sexism. Turn off autopilot and question everything you assume about gender. Work to deconstruct your normalised behaviour and interrogate your day-to-day vocabulary. Likewise, pay close attention to bias that goes unnoticed, like sexist news headlines and misogynist commercials. Take some time to understand the concept of toxic masculinity and how it affects you. Understand that your position as a man might not allow you to witness the whole spectrum of gender discrimination.

Take this opportunity to interrogate your conduct and examine if there’s anything about your actions that could change to achieve a fairer future for everyone. 

March and Be Proud

You’re campaigning for female empowerment, against gender-based violence, for respect and justice, against stereotypes and gender-bias, for full social, political, legal and economic equality and against the othering of women in society. That’s major.

Don’t question your power and feel proud of what we can achieve together.

Gayle’s Birth Story: knowledge is power

In this episode, Gayle tells us about two very different births that took place over 20 years ago. I am, as always, amazed by how crystal clear this experience is for us – even many years later. The process and the feelings that are created are timeless and never go out of date.

“You can’t script a birth and you can’t script your life.”


The Positive Birth Story Podcast features empowering & positive stories about birth. Swedish midwife Åsa Holstein shares her in-depth knowledge of birth and speaks to brave women who share their personal stories. This is a podcast with women, for women about the super power that resides in all of us.

Find all episodes of The Positive Birth Story Podcast here.

Power Advice for Activists from Nomtika Mjwana

Nomtika Mjwana is an activist for sexual and reproductive health and rights from South Africa. Many women and girls may be struggling to claim their space when fighting for human rights, social justice or gender equality. In this recorded monologue for Girls’ Globe, Nomtika shares her power advice to activists and advocates worldwide.

Nomtika encourages you to know that you are not alone, to dare to challenge power and to not be afraid to take up space. Watch and listen to this piece of power advice to girls below:

We stand for global solidarity for human rights, gender equality and social justice. On Instagram, Girls’ Globe shares powerful inspiration from the voices of women and girls worldwide – don’t miss out! Want to share your power advice or story too? Get in touch or apply to be a blogger.

Celebrating South Africa’s Women’s Day

Each year on 9 August, South Africa celebrates Women’s Day. We honour more than 20,000 women who marched in protest of the pass laws.

During Apartheid, black people were required to carry passes designed to restrict their movements. If they were found to not have their passes, police would arrest and sentence them to prison. On 9 August 1956, thousands of women from different racial and cultural backgrounds marched to the Union Buildings to deliver petitions to the Prime Minister.

What makes this day so important in South Africa’s history?

It was diverse in essence. There were women of all races and backgrounds; black women, Indian women, domestic workers with their white employers’ babies on their backs. It also went against what was expected of women at that time. They refused to be quiet and sit back while the brutal Apartheid system tore their families apart.

One of the most iconic phrases sung at the march was: “you strike a woman, you strike a rock.”

Lead by extraordinary women such as Lilian Ngoyi, Rahima Moosa, Helen Joseph and Sophia de Bruyn, women fought for a non-racist and non-sexist South Africa.

What has actually changed since then?

Sophia de Bruyn, one of the few living marchers of that day, wrote on Twitter that she is disappointed in the little progress made since then. In South Africa, rates of violence against women are so high that it is normalised in society.

Some people blame women for provoking a man. Women who are abused by their partners are unable to leave. Some people even think that violence in a marriage is normal. Personally, I feel that as a country we tolerate and normalize many things we shouldn’t. Even though we have one of the most inclusive constitutions, government and civil organizations can only do so much.

Celebrating inspiring South African women

It is important that we celebrate inspiring South African women and remain positive that we can end inequality, discrimination and violence.

To many South Africans, Caster Semenya is probably the most iconic athlete of our time. But the rest of the world demonize and mock her for…well, not being woman enough. The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has subjected her to gender testing for years. If you read her posts on social media, you’ll know that she tries her best to rise above the negativity.

Lady Skollie is a self-proclaimed ‘pussy power prophet’. She is a feminist artist who explores themes of sex, gender roles, violence and heritage in her work. Nothing in her work is taboo. In celebration of 25 years of democracy, she has recently designed new SA coins. 

Then there is our very own Queen B, Bonang Matheba. She is a media personality who knows what she wants and works hard for it. She has a bursary fund that pays for girls’ university tuition costs and aims to send 300 girls to university by 2021.

Happy Women’s Day South Africa!