Yemeni rapper Amani Yahya performs at the photo exhibit celebrating International Women’s Day
Yemen celebrates female photographers on International Women’s Day
Yemen Times, 9 March 201
With the closure of embassies and the country’s few galleries, the prospects for finding a sponsor and host for an International Women’s Day event were looking grim. Despite Yemen’s serious political situation—the UN Envoy to Yemen has described the country as being on the “brink of civil war”—photographer and women’s rights activist Bushra Al-Fusail made it happen.
“I said, ‘Fine. We’ll celebrate at a coffee shop. That’s where everyone gathers anyway.”
She approached Nina Aqlan from the Dutch organization, SPARK, and the two women moved forward with their plans for a photo exhibit featuring the photography of Yemeni women. SPARK sponsored the event, which was attended by dozens of people and hosted at Coffee Corner Monday evening.
In the entrance, photos in black frames celebrating Yemeni women were displayed. The photos were by Al-Fusail, as well as Maha Senan, Arwa Al-Hubaishi and Rooj Al-Wazir.
“Supporting these initiatives is important because young people need a space to express themselves and be creative, especially during this chaos that the country is experiencing,” said Aqlan.
“These initiatives remind us that even when things are falling apart, there is still room to be expressive and to bring positive energy to shed light on what is hidden among the chaos: Like the amazing women we see in these pictures,” she added.
Al-Fusail says women are uniquely positioned to capture the 50 percent of society that are less seen and heard from than their male counterparts.
When the photographer is a woman, the woman being photographed is more likely, “to be open with [her] problems,” Al-Fusail says.
She has noticed that while many women in Sana’a are outwardly reacting to the takeover of the capital by the Houthis by veiling their faces, she also sees the small acts of informal rebellion throughout the city.
“Three years ago, I would approach women on the streets and not find anyone willing to have their photo taken. Now, many women agree.”
While International Women’s Day comes and goes once a year, the fight for women’s rights in Yemen is a year-round struggle. Complicating that fight is the political turmoil of the country, as well as the well-intentioned liberals who tell Al-Fusail that now is not the time.
“Do not tell us that because of this stupid situation that we are in, that it’s not the time to fight for our rights. There’s no convenient time, we have to always be fighting.”
Aqlan fights the good fight through SPARK by focusing on youth initiatives. “I really hope to see the younger generation come out of this strong and with constructive ideas.”
“For our generation, [some] of us can go abroad, we have other opportunities. But we need to be here and try as much as possible to remind people of what we can accomplish, even if things are really bad.”
One of those youth is Amani Yahya, a female rapper from Hodeida who performed at the International Women’s Day event on Monday.
“When you know that there are other creative, artistic women it leaves you feeling inspired,” Yahya said. “It feels good to be part of this day with other women.”
The support reminds her she’s not alone.
“I’ve gotten a lot of threats, people telling me to stop what I’m doing because I’m [projecting] a ‘bad’ image of Yemeni women. I’m not going to stop.”
Aqlan with her NGO, Al-Fusail with her photography, and Yahya with her music, are proud of the event they planned and performed at Monday, but for them, the fight for women’s rights is more than a once-a-year event. Every day is Women’s Day.