Despite existence of women’s empowerment policies and the appointments of women leaders to oversee the implementation and sometimes design of those policies, the Republic of Yemen has repeatedly ranked last in the WEF Gender Gap Index since 2006. Is this a problem of capacity? Are the women leaders, who are driving the national women’s development agenda forward, lacking in this field? This article investigates this question through a mixed-method research by surveying and interviewing Yemeni women leaders who were involved in empowerment policies in health, education, economic participation and political empowerment between 2006 and 2014.

Findings from this research show that the women leaders were highly qualified in terms of expertise; education and professional skills. Furthermore, findings show that the patriarchal system punishes women leaders when they challenge it, which forces many of them to refrain from antagonising the patriarchy. Those who do, risk their professional and even personal wellbeing in their plight against practices that negatively affect women’s empowerment of the larger women community.

This finding has significant implications on women’s empowerment policies in Yemen and countries of similar contexts, by directing funding and support from the traditional individual capacity building efforts to those concerning harnessing the collective power.

Author Biography

Dr. Nadia Al-Sakkaf is a Yemeni researcher and advocacy expert. She was the first woman Information Minister in Yemen, was involved in Yemen’s political transition process and, for nearly ten years, was Chief Editor of the Yemen Times. Al-Sakkaf is recipient of many international awards such as the Business for Peace Foundation Award and the Gebran Tueni Award. She was also celebrated as one of the WEF’s Young Global Leader and one of BBC’s 100 Women who changed the world. She can be reached at nadia.a.alsakkaf@gmail.com.