Grassroots Voices: Women and Everyday Peacebuilding in Yemen

The morning assembly of Al-Wehda Girls School in Taiz city on August 24, 2022 (c) Sana’a Center photo by Ahmed Al Basha.

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Over eight years of war in Yemen have had dire consequences on people’s day-to-day lives and shaped their definitions and perceptions of peace. Years of failed negotiations have allowed the warring factions to monopolize conversations on peace. Within these negotiations, women at both the local and national level have been largely excluded, despite them being at the forefront of mitigating the war’s impact on Yemenis. Utilizing a community-centered approach, this study seeks to give agency to Yemenis to define peace based on their own lived experiences, propose practices that promote women’s role in peacebuilding, and suggest ways to mitigate local practices that produce or reproduce gender inequalities and violent or non peaceful practices. The study heavily draws on feminist literature that argues the ‘hidden’ everyday practices carried out by women — procreation, day-to-day routines, caregiving, satisfying basic human needs, negotiating inequalities, social relations, and resolving conflict—are integral to social cohesion, but inadequately researched nor recognized.

One hundred twenty-eight Yemeni women and men from different age groups, geographical areas, and socio-economic backgrounds took part in this research. Focus group discussions were held in the governorates of Sana’a, Ibb, Aden, and Hadramawt between January and March 2022. Across the governorates, interviews were also carried out with various decision makers, community leaders, imams, and religious leaders. The study does not aim to give a representative overview of the experiences of all women in Yemen, given its diversity and the limitations of conducting fieldwork in the country. Instead, it utilizes a micro-level approach to amplify local voices and agency. Allowing Yemenis to use a familiar language, identify their needs and priorities while also utilizing peace practices from their daily lives, creates enabling environments for women to participate in peacebuilding, and enhances larger peace intervention mechanisms. Furthermore, defining peace and the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agenda from the perspectives of local actors and grassroots women shifts the focus from a Western-centric approach toward a Yemeni-centric one. Below is a summary of the findings that emerged from the focus group discussions and interviews.

The views represented in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arab Reform Initiative, its staff, or its board.