Gender Balance in Community Committees - Exposing the Veil of Misrepresentation
Fatima Bawazir

Community committees play a vital role in Yemeni society, as they help in the development and service provision for the society through concerted efforts and coordination among its members. They contribute to maintaining public security and transparency.  They are also considered a link between the local security authorities and citizens, and work to reconcile between people, aiming to strengthen relationships between community members.

Community committees are a tool for participating in the growth and development of the local community as well as in the improvement of the quality of life in it. Because of their significance, gender balance is considered an important necessity in community committees. A balanced representation of both genders ensures a diversity of opinions and experiences and promotes justice and equality. Gender balance also provides equal opportunities for both women and men to participate and influence decision-making and achieve the goals of the committees.


Gender imbalance!

Women in Sahel Hadhramaut complain about the lack of gender balance in the structures of community committees. The reasons for this are the cultural and social restrictions that may limit women’s participation in public activities in addition to the unstable economic and security conditions that may also be an obstacle to women’s participation in community committees. Moreover, a lack of women representation in leadership and decision-making positions also has a negative impact on women’s participation in these committees.

Abdullah Al-Hajj, head of community committees in Mukalla City, says: “The number of women in community committees is 238 on the administrative level and at the local level in neighborhoods and units.”

Nevertheless, (N.M.), a member of one of the community committees, admits that the representation of women is significantly lower than that of men. This disparity is attributed to the incomplete establishment of women's community committees across all neighborhoods. Furthermore, women suffer from discrimination in community committees and the community must realize that discrimination is considered a real challenge that they must address ."

 In excluding women, not only are their voices dismissed and their influence in decision-making diminished, but the community also misses a crucial perspective, undermining the richness of opinions and effective decision-making."

(N.M.) represents a sample of educated women working within community committees, but Hanan bin Ali Al-Hajj (a community activist) criticizes the selection of women in community committees as she says: “Most of those who belong to community committees are old and unqualified women,” and she wonders: Why young, educated women are not selected in the committees?""


Exposing Misrepresentation 

Hikmah Sa'id, a social activist and case trainer, believes that the representation of women in community committees in Al-Mukalla is not real but only on paper. She adds, "I have conducted several case management training courses for community committees, funded by local organizations, but I did not find any women in any of the courses. All the participants I trained were men."

Regarding the reasons for the absence of women in the courses carried out for community committees, Hikma says: “Most likely we suffer from the complex of our patriarchal society, i.e., women are not suitable for such tasks. Women are always excluded from public leadership tasks and duties on the pretext that they are not capable of doing so’’.

The situation is not much different for Nizar Bawazir, head of a housing unit in Mukalla (neighborhood leader), who confirms that since the formation of the community committee, there have been no women in its structure, and then a female member of the committee was added later, but she does not attend the committee’s meetings and cannot be communicated with. Perhaps this is because most of the committee’s meetings take place in mosques or neighborhoods with no official meeting place. As a result, this is difficult for a woman to be in a public place where her privacy is not respected.

Bawazir adds: “There may be a future trend for the local authority to enhance the role of women in community committees by launching their own committees that complement the work of men, as we welcome women and are not hostile to them.”

 The Arab Republic of Egypt serves as an example for successful community committees that engage women and men, with a number of committee members reaching about 10,000 members in 51 administrative centers including 1,443 villages, at least 35% of them are women, and 35% are youth. The experience of community committees in Yemen is a nascent experience that cannot be evaluated due to the circumstances in which it arose, and the structural, economic and political challenges that have been plaguing the country for a long time, which negatively affect the development of infrastructure and collective institutions.

Nevertheless, there is optimism that they will overcome those obstacles and facilitate a more impactful presence of women. The goal is to ensure that gender balance is not merely a theoretical commitment but manifests in practical, tangible outcomes.

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