BILQIS ABU OSBA
'Yemen is my country, my mother, my anchor.'
Following the steps of Mutee' Dammaj
Bilqis Abu Osba from Yemen is passionate about politics. Smiling, she recalls with pride the legacy of her grandfather Mutee' Dammaj, who was one of the first people to start the 26thof September revolution. Bilkis was the first woman of her generation and her family to follow the steps of Mutee' Dammaj. Her father Ahmed Mansoor Abu Osba and her uncle Zaid Mutee' Dammaj encouraged her to do so.
Bilqis is a professor of Gender and political sciences at the University of Sana'a, Yemen. Her expertise concerns the role of civil society in empowering ordinary citizens in Yemen. She played a key role in establishing several women's networks and alliances in order for women leaders, especially youth, to be able to fight for their rights during the transition period Yemen is in. She chaired various lobby and advocacy events with leading local NGOs/CSOs to make women's voices heard in Yemen.
2006: the first multi-party system
Bilqis' first commitment as a civil society activist was in a College Union in the 1990s when she was a student at the political sciences department, Sanaa University. At that time, Yemeni citizens experienced a window of opportunity after the unification of the North and the South of Yemen and the adoption of the new constitution. Equal rights for all citizens were enshrined in the new text, and this continued to inspire Bilqis who voted for the first time in 2006 after the country adopted a multi-party a system.
Since 2006, she has focused on gender-related issues: early marriage, women's political participation and combatting corruption. She was selected as the first ever vice-chairwomen of the Supreme National Authority for Combating Corruption - and the first women to hold such a position. During these years she has gained an enormous experience in fighting corruption in Yemen.
It is now almost one year ago Bilqis had to leave Yemen due to the ongoing conflicts and war. However, she is waiting for upcoming negotiations to return back to her country. Currently, she is based in Jordan where she is working with several Yemeni peacebuilding groups. Together they try to be affective in peace-building and in representing a force to include women in the coming dialogues.
Bilqis co-founded and is now the head of AWAM foundation for Development and Culture, which was established in 2005. AWAM is a non-governmental organization that focuses on promoting democracy, human rights and good governance in Yemen, particularly the democratic rights of women.WOMEN'S POLITICAL PARTICIPATION
AWAM was established by a group of women activists, academics and civil society organisations with the objective of advocating for the inclusion of women's rights in the Constitution and follow-up of the National Dialogue processes. It aims toward at least 30% participation of women in the state's legislative, executive and judicial bodies, and to raise awareness and general support for women's participation in the political, economic, social and cultural arena.
Yemen's peace process
As a result of the increased instability in Yemen and the war breaking out in March 2015, AWAM shifted its activities and now focuses mainly on UNSCR 1325. Bilqis, was invited and participated in a number of meetings with other Yemeni women leaders to have a dialogue about the future of Yemen and the role of women. The group of women formed a coalition and met already several times with UN's special envoy to Yemen Mr Ismail Ould Cheikh.
'Yemen is a forgotten war. It's not on the world's agenda. That's why we work on delivering that voice: there are people who are suffering in Yemen andwe are part of them. How can we all work together to stop the war and takeYemen back to how it was so that people can return to their lives and towns?'