Being a young person in Yemen

By: 
CARE
Youth and women in Sana'a create art for their neighbourhood that promotes messages of peace as part of CARE's Foundation for Peace project

Since 2011, the situation in Yemen has been getting worse: in 2014, Sana’a was taken over and then, late in March last year, there was bombing everywhere. This has affected me deeply – I lost the sense of being secure, I lost the sense of planning for tomorrow and I lost the sense of having dreams.

I started to feel like surviving an airstrike was the best I could do in my life.

Going to work sometimes was so difficult either because of the bombings or because of armed groups in the streets stopping and questioning us. There is still always that moment when you leave your house and say bye to your mum and you don’t know if you’ll be coming back or not. But even though it’s dangerous you can’t just stay at home because being at work is the only thing that makes you feel at least a little bit normal and like you can endure all of this.

We forgot about war for a second

I postponed my marriage three times because of war, but recently I decided not to wait any more so I got married on the first of January 2016 and I decided to start the New Year with new spirit!

Hana and her husband on their wedding day
Hana and her husband on their wedding day

The day before my marriage though, there were extensive airstrikes and I was so worried my friends wouldn’t be able to come to the wedding, but luckily they came and we celebrated and we forgot about war for a second.

What I have noticed and I don't like is that we've got used to this war and these airstrikes and to seeing all this blood around us.

Now, when we are told someone dies, the first questions we ask is: “was he in a battle?” or “was his home bombed?” We have lost the ability to be shocked and the sense of normal life.

It's been more than six months that we haven't had electricity and now people are starting to go to sleep at 7pm, when it gets dark. If someone told us tomorrow they will provide us with two hours of electricity a day I think people would take to the streets dancing because it would seem like a gift from heaven.

Young people just want something to do

Because of the economic situation a lot of young people have lost their jobs and businesses have closed and so many people enrol in armed groups just to earn a living and feed their families.

Enrolling in trainings or initiatives like the ones CARE runs are the only thing that give many young people purpose now and makes them feel secure.

Even if they don't get selected for certain trainings they still come to me and ask to attend it just as an observer; without transportation fees or food – they just want something to do. This gives me a lot of energy to think of new ideas and projects and ways to include and empower youth. The youth need opportunities and assistance, but mainly they just need a chance to show us what they can do.

The economic situation is forcing them to do things they don’t want to or don’t like, but because they need money they do it. To keep the peace in communities, people need to work.

War is hardest on women 

This war is also really hard on the women. If you saw Yemen before the war and Yemen now - women are taking all the burden, working from early morning to night. Nowadays you can find a mother who has lost two sons; each of them fighting for a different armed group.

If a man can’t get a job it is the woman who has to go ask people for help, or become a cleaner in other people's homes in order to get their leftover food at the end of the day. They are the mothers of those who lose their lives and the wives of those who lose their jobs. The women of Yemen have lost their inner peace; but they are very resilient.

If it weren't for women I don't think the social fabric would stand. 

26-year-old Hana Alshowafi is a project officer with CARE Yemen’s ‘Foundation For Peace Program’.  She spends her days talking with young people across the country and crafting programmes to help them feel empowered again.

What CARE is doing

Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world. Since 2006, Yemen has ranked as the lowest country in the world for gender equality, and over 60% of the population was already in need of humanitarian assistance before this conflict. Since the violence erupted in March 2015, the humanitarian needs have escalated at an alarming rate. CARE’s emergency response is focused on providing life-saving food, livelihoods, water and sanitation assistance to the most vulnerable displaced people, especially women and girls.

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.