The SWMENA survey also aimed to assess the level of awareness and support for the introduction of gender quotas in elected bodies in Yemen. Currently, the level of female representation in the Yemeni parliament is extremely low, standing at a tiny 0.3% of seats (1 woman out of a total of 301 seats). Female representation on local government councils is similarly limited with women occupying less than 1% of seats. Since the introduction of gender quotas would potentially promote women’s participation in political decision-making, SWMENA survey respondents were asked a series of questions about their knowledge of the concept of gender quotas and whether they would support such a system in Yemen.
- Survey results indicate that few Yemenis seem to have heard of the notion of gender quotas. And awareness is much lower among women than among men. Indeed, when respondents were asked if they had heard about “the notion of reserving a share for women in parliament and in elected bodies so that women have a specific percentage of seats,” a sweeping majority of women (80%) said no they had not heard about it versus 20% who said yes (Figure 11).
- Twice as many men (40%) as women said “yes” they heard about the notion of gender quotas, yet this leaves a 60% majority of Yemeni men who have not heard about gender quotas (Figure 12). The higher level of awareness of gender quotas among men could be explained by the wider access that men have to political debates and the media than women do.
- When breaking down the data on knowledge of gender quotas by different demographic characteristics of women, we find that women with higher educational attainment have higher-than-average awareness of gender quotas: nearly four in 10 women who have a secondary education or higher have heard about the concept of gender quotas. However, even for women who have university education or higher, the share of women who have heard of gender quotas is less than a majority (only 40%).
- Younger women ages 18-34 are slightly more knowledgeable of gender quotas than women in older age groups, however, only a quarter of these young women have heard of the notion of gender quotas while the remaining 75% have not heard of it.
- When breaking down these findings by urban and rural locations, we find that women who live in small towns or large villages show higher levels of awareness of the notion of gender quotas (32%) than women who live in urban areas (23%) or in small villages (17%). The higher awareness in small towns/ large villages could be because political mobilization is easier in these areas than it is in urban areas or purely rural areas.
- Women who are very or somewhat interested in matters of politics and government are about three times more likely to have heard of the notion of gender quotas than women who are not too interested or not at all interested in matters of politics and government (38% vs. 12% respectively) (Figure 13).
- Survey findings thus indicate that there is very little knowledge of the notion of gender quotas in Yemen. This knowledge deficit may potentially pose an obstacle to women’s NGOs and activists who are trying to push for the introduction of quotas in elected bodies in Yemen.
- Next, to gauge attitudes towards the introduction of gender quotas in Yemen, respondents were asked if they personally support or oppose “a system that would reserve seats for women in parliament and in local councils in Yemen.” Overall, majorities of both men (57%) and women (58%) said they strongly or somewhat support gender quotas in Yemen. Meanwhile, 39% of men said they strongly or somewhat oppose gender quotas versus 24% of women. It must be noted that nearly one in five women did not know or refused to answer the question.
- When excluding those who have not heard of the notion of gender quotas and comparing men and women’s responses again, we observe a wide gender discrepancy in the levels of support for gender quotas. Among women who are aware of gender quotas, a sweeping 89% majority say they strongly (65%) or somewhat (24%) support a system of quotas in Yemen. This is higher by 22 percentage points than the share of men aware of quotas who strongly (43%) or somewhat (24%) support the quota system. More than three times as many men (32%) as women (9%) oppose the system of gender quotas in Yemen (Figure 14).
- Overall, survey findings suggest that there is no significant opposition to gender quotas on behalf of either men or women. It is also noteworthy that opinions of quotas are much more favorable when women have knowledge of the notion of quotas: support for quotas goes from 58% for women as a whole to 89% for women with knowledge of quotas. This shows that increasing awareness of gender quotas can go a long way in rallying Yemeni women around this cause. Among men, support for gender quotas also increases as knowledge levels increase: the level of support grows from 57% for men as a whole to 67% for men aware of quotas, but the difference is not as notable as the one seen for female respondents.
- The data also shows that as women’s educational attainment increases, the intensity of support for gender quotas increases as well. Indeed, a 51% majority of women with a secondary education or higher say they strongly support gender quotas. This compares to just 32% of women with an intermediate education or lower who say they strongly support gender quotas (Figure 15).
Respondents who said they supported a system of gender quotas were asked why they do. Responses are based on those respondents who had heard of the notion of gender quotas. Among women, the top reason for supporting gender quotas is the belief that women should have the same rights as men: this garnered 33% of responses. Nearly a quarter of women (24%) said it is because women are better at representing women’s needs. Another 19% said it is because women should have a role in political life. Other reasons include the belief that women are just as qualified or as educated as men (9%), that women would focus on new policy concerns (9%), and that women are half the population and should therefore be represented (8%) (Figure 16).
- Among men, the top three reasons for supporting quotas are the belief that women should have a role in political life (29%), that women should have the same rights as men (20%), and that women are half the population and should therefore be represented (14%). The reason that women are better at representing women’s needs came in fourth place with only 9% of men mentioning it whereas it was the second most cited reason among women. It is noteworthy that 9% men support quotas because they think women are less corrupt than men (Figure 17).
- Of those women who oppose gender quotas, the top reasons for opposing them are that a woman’s place is at home (38%), that women have no place in politics (30%), and that women are less qualified, less educated than men (12%).
- The top three reasons men mention for opposing gender quotas are similar to those cited by women (Figure 19).