Women possess incredible capabilities inside of them and have enough power to lead the world, to lead a professional team, to establish their private businesses and projects, and to obtain job opportunities. When the Yemeni woman obtains a real opportunity, then she proves herself to be very creative, incredible, and capable to develop herself on her own.
I know this is true because I have seen it in the female trainees in the employment programs I teach and in my path in life to become a trainer.
I am from the traditional city of Old Sana'a in Yemen. In the past, women here never completed more than a very simple level of education, so my mother only went to two years of primary school and was a housewife. Like many Yemeni women today, I had to work after graduating from university. In many families, women and men are accepting this new reality. There is more openness because the economic situation in the country is catastrophic.
I searched for work as an accountant in the field I studied, but no one would accept me because I was a fresh graduate with no experience. Also, I would estimate that about 80% of jobs in the accounting field go to males. Just because they are males.
All the education I received was merely theoretical and had no practical aspects to it that would prepare me for the job market. When I went to apply for a job in accounting with my friend, I didn't have a resume, nor did I know how to write one, so I took a photocopy of my diploma.
We also had no self-esteem, and we were scared to apply for work in companies. Our university system works like this: we enter the classroom or lecture hall silent, remain silent, and exit the hall silent. The professor speaks, and we sit listening. This is a major reason for the lack of self-confidence.
When I finally got an accounting job it wasn't what I expected. My income here was 75 dollars. There was a wide difference between my income and a man's income which was 150,000 Yemeni riyals, which is equal to about 750 dollars per month! And my income was 75 dollars - can you imagine this difference?
After two and a half years I was supposed to become a permanent employee, which was my goal. After three years they didn't appoint me to a permanent position and gave no reason. They decided to let me go.
I had waited three years for permanence, and then didn't get it. There, I didn't get my rights, or my annual benefits from the salary, I didn't receive anything. Because I didn't know.
I felt very frustrated, and didn't leave my house for an entire month. I was experiencing a personal crisis. I began to separate myself from the people that had been close to me, and I began to lose faith in everyone around me. At the same time, I was also hot-tempered and angry. This was all while I was jobless, and I didn't have financial security. So I was constantly searching in the newspapers, which is when I found an advertisement for a training organization called Yemen Education For Employment and that was offering training in employment skills.
That was in 2008. Today I am one of the people that was a trainee, and became a trainer. So all the things that I myself suffered from before learning job skills and gaining self confidence are things that I see and try to fix in my trainees.
What I notice in our female trainees prior to the training is a lack of self-confidence, a very high level of frustration, largely because the trainee is a graduate but wasn't able to secure a job, as well as a complete lack of communication skills, which leads to an inability to make the relationships you need to secure job opportunities. So she studied in the university, but didn't get a job opportunity, so she feels like it's the end of the world, and this in turn leads to a lack of a clear vision for the future. Or if she does have a goal for the future, she doesn't know the road that will lead there.
This psychological crisis and frustration is strongly connected to the environment. Sometimes the siblings or the parents will make a young person feel guilty because they invested so much into them in regards of education, but because they are unemployed, they are not benefiting the family in any way. The trainees come to us with the attitude of "there is no hope, there are no jobs." I believe this is result of the environment surrounding them.
One of the main points I try to emphasize in training the female trainees is that there shouldn't be discrimination or a divide inside the classroom. I try to relate this point to the trainees, both females and males, to the same degree. But there are certain points that must be dealt with differently with females and males.
For example, the issue of family support. We point out the differences that are present when a family doesn't support the girl in the decisions she makes, and when the family doesn't support the boy. So I discuss the role of the girl in overcoming this family problem, because she will overcome it differently than the boy. The first thing the girl has to do is see both sides of the problem, so she can work on trying to help those around her understand her perspective. Basically I try to teach her how to work towards her goals and more forward in life, despite a possible lack of support from the family or other obstacles.
Oftentimes, the female trainees are superior in their training and their enthusiasm and bravery in participating in training activities, as well as searching for work opportunities, is higher. They often put in more effort and hard work in the training program than some male trainees.
Today, the tendency to hire girls is increasing. The reason for this is that the woman is often more committed. She is very hard-working, concentrates well and is organized. This makes more companies accept certain women.
And the woman has started to develop her capabilities and skills on her own, so they know what is demanded by the job market, and where they should go to search for jobs. There are a lot of success stories for women that were able to get jobs in high places. So the opportunities are available, but the girls that were not trained properly, they don't know where to go to search for work. It is possible to make the change.
The opportunities for women in Yemen are getting better, and I am optimistic.
Translated from Arabic by Michelle Balon.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Education For Employment (EFE) in conjunction with Arab World Mother's Day. The series highlights the collective personal, societal and economic impact of women employees, employers and entrepreneurs in the Arab world. EFE's mission is to create job and entrepreneurship opportunities for unemployed youth in the Middle East and North Africa. For more information about Education For Employment click here.