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What Does Saudi Arabia Want? Reduce the Vulnerability of Women to Violence and Domestic Abuse by Promoting Literacy Programs That Build Self-Confidence and Independence



By Shashank Joshi

27 November 2013

Millions of young women throughout the world are married before they turn 18—many against their will and in violation of international laws and conventions. In Yemen, child marriage continues to limit women’s contribution to their society, and both girls and women continue to suffer high rates of illiteracy, abuse, and exclusion from opportunity.

[On Monday], we marked the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women—a day that highlights both the progress made in the long struggle for women’s rights as well as the challenges that remain. We, along with Yemen’s partners in the international community, support and applaud the unyielding efforts of Yemenis committed to ending violence against women and securing their basic rights. 

For example, programs to promote education and awareness are central to addressing gender-based violence and inequality. We can reduce the vulnerability of women to violence and domestic abuse by promoting literacy programs that build self-confidence and independence. Literacy projects and vocational training opportunities are proven paths toward expanding women’s participation in the workforce, increasing productivity, and boosting innovation. In Yemen, grassroots organizations are making progress, with the support of the government of Yemen and international partners.

Yemenis increasingly recognize that women’s issues must be core national priorities. At the National Dialogue Conference (NDC), 30 percent of the delegates are women. Their strong and effective participation in shaping Yemen’s future has enhanced general appreciation for the important role women play in positions of responsibility and trust—and for the potentially greater role for them in government, business, and society as a whole.  When women suffer intimidation, violence, and abuse, the nation as a whole suffers. The United States is committed to working with the government of Yemen and non-governmental organizations that are providing assistance to women in need throughout the country. At the same time, we must continue to work together—the international community, governments, grassroots organizations, and the private sector—to address discrimination and abuse. Legislation addressing gender-based violence is another critical step towards improving the status of women. 

Still, Yemen recognizes that more important work remains. Yemen has one of the world’s lowest overall literacy rates, and women are disproportionately afflicted. When large segments of the population are marginalized, mistreated, and subjected to discrimination, important voices are silenced and unique perspectives are lost. Gender equality and women’s empowerment lie at the core of building a free, democratic, and prosperous Yemen. 

The United States is continuing to help address gender-based violence around the world through the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)—which has invested more than $215 million globally in gender-based violence related programming over the last three years. Meanwhile, the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons has redoubled efforts to incorporate gender-based violence programming in humanitarian response activities.

Rest assured that Americans are committed to maintaining our support for a peaceful political transition in Yemen by continuing to contribute to the important work of preventing violence against women. Together, Yemenis, Americans, and Yemen’s international partners, will continue to strive for a peaceful, democratic and prosperous Yemen now and for future generations.