When you take a walk in the streets of Sanaa, the women you see are covered in black from head-to-toe. That is why the whole world took notice when Yemeni women were at the forefront of the demonstrations that eventually ousted long-time president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and brought in a new government.
While many in Yemen hoped for change following the change of government, things have actually become worse. Unemployment among young people in Yemen is as high as 40%, according to the World Bank. The IMF says nearly half of Yemen’s population lives below the poverty line and roughly one-in-two children suffers from malnutrition.
Conditions are particularly tough for women. Yemen is the worst country in the world in terms of gender equality, according to a World Economic Forum survey. The majority of women are illiterate and more than half get married before the age of 18.
Part of the reason why women took to the streets in 2011 was to help voiceless women who live in poverty and have no access to education. But in this deeply traditional and tribal country progress is slow. Deeply conservative political groups are reluctant to see any change in the role of women whether in private or public life in Yemen.
The pain of failure to see change come from the protests that removed the former President demonstrate that the issues facing this nation require a multi-pronged approach that must include the prayers of God’s people for lives and communities to be transformed.