Sisters Arab Forum

Taking on Discrimintation of Women in Yemen



Women in Yemen are discriminated against under Sharia law and other traditional customs and practices in Yemen in the social, political, and economic spheres. Those affected most by discrimination are members of the “Akhdam” minority.

The Akhdam (which means “servants” in Arabic) are Arabic-speaking Muslims that do not belong to any of the three main Arab tribes that make up traditional Yemeni society, and face discrimination due to their darker skin color. As a result, they suffer social and economic discrimination, which makes it very difficult for them to escape the cycle of poverty, violence, and intolerance that characterize their lives.According to official estimates, the total number of Akhdam countrywideis approximately 500,000, some 100,000 of which live in the outskirtsof the capital Sana’a.


Akhdam women are subject to what our partner, Sisters Arab Forum (SAF), refers to as “doubled violence,” since they subject to violence and marginalization due to their gender and minority status. SAF advocates for and defends women’s rights through efforts to change discriminatory laws, policies and attitudes that hinder women.

Following an initial training in early summer 2008, SAF and WITNESS produced Breaking the Silence in 2009 as part of a campaign to lobby the Yemeni Parliament to adopt a law to prevent and end discrimination and marginalization of Akhdam women. The Yemeni government has banned entry of the video, arguing that it endangers national security and unity. SAF and WITNESS are currently working to have the ban withdrawn.

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