Yemen: Finding hope and promoting inclusive learning in dire times

Yemen has a wealth of potential to use trade to make progress on a number of development fronts, maximize its regional position and transform its resources, outside of the oil sector, to the greater benefit of its neediest communities.


Despite the long-term instability in the country, the EIF has continued its work in Yemen, building the capacity of the Ministry of Industry and Trade to use trade as a gateway to development. The EIF National Implementation Unit is leading efforts to transform the country's potential to trade into real impact on the ground for the poorest regions. The need to tackle high levels of poverty is also matched by the importance of ensuring that women actively participate in the economic sphere.


As a result, the EIF programme has incorporated gender empowerment among its activities, including facilitating the representation of businesswomen in the Public-Private Sector Dialogue Council, which has advocated the waiving of fees for businesswomen wanting to start new businesses. In cooperation with UNDP, the EIF and the Ministry have nominated a committee of eight people, six of whom are female employees, to work with UNDP and serve as an advisory and coordination body between UNDP and the Ministry to develop projects to be implemented in several governorates in Yemen. Female employees are also well represented in workshops and specialized committees owing to their competence and hard work.


The EIF has also established a training centre in the basement of the Ministry's building. Inaugurated in June 2016, the training centre makes training more convenient and less expensive, enabling the Ministry to offer a wide range of capacity‑building initiatives, including English language classes, computer literacy and proficiency courses, leadership, planning and advanced reporting courses, courses on commercial registration procedures plus lessons on trade facilitation and trade mainstreaming, among others.


The trainings provided target both civil servants and private sector workers who are severely constrained in Yemen by low capacities and lack of resources. Moreover, Yemen's relative isolation from the rest of the world reinforces the crucial need to build capacity in human resources and in trade. With Yemen's accession to the WTO, there is also an increased need to improve English literacy to understand WTO regulations and negotiations and to be able to reap the benefits available for Least Developed Countries and to engage effectively in global and regional discussions.


The English language learning programme funded by the EIF is an essential part of building capacity in the Ministry and in private sector institutions. The training started in 2009 and has since expanded due to a consistent increase in demand.  


The learning programme offers female employees an opportunity to study English language in the work place. In 2015, 200 students, of which 60 were females, benefitted from the English language training. The percentage of female students is much higher than the one of the female work force, estimated at 15-20% of the total workforce of the Ministry.


In Yemen, opportunities for women to work and study on par with their male counterparts have been steadily increasing, and the learning programme is helping to spread ideas and knowledge, which gives them an opportunity to take charge of their lives by earning a livelihood independent of their male relatives. This has motivated female students to excel above their male counterparts. This explains the high enrolment rate of female students, which is also linked to the design of the programme, which provides an ideal learning environment within the Ministry. It allows women to save on transport costs and commuting time and is fully compliant with cultural sensitivities and social norms around female education.


Language‑studying is very appealing to the female workers of the Ministry of Industry and Trade as it helps them to meet daily requirements at work but also opens up opportunities for travelling abroad and applying for foreign scholarships, including in trade-related areas. By enabling them to access the internet, use social media and access information about trade that is pertinent to their work, it also provides opportunities for personal and career development, which has beneficial effects on their family, communities and social life.  


In an environment marked by long-lasting political instability and insecurity as well as limited business opportunities, the determination and the resilience of the Yemeni students, particularly the female students, reflect a story of strong hope for a better future. Taking charge of their lives and future provides a foothold to acquiring lifelong skills and capacities, which will later help their poorest communities. The EIF partnership has chosen not to discontinue its support to Yemen in order to help stabilize communities, bridge divides and build peace.


With greater support, Yemen can recover and focus on an inclusive sustainable development that is needed for the next generation. Yemen's agenda for change is rightly ambitious. But support from the international community – both from private investors and development partners – is a vital part in this long-term vision of developmental success.


"I am a student in the English language programme funded by the EIF and have undergone several courses. I use English in my daily work in researching information through the internet and feel empowered by my English. I am confident that a good command of the English language will help me to progress in my job and in my life." Ms Iltaf al-Ghafari, Staff member, Ministry of Industry and Trade Yemen