She has wondered over and over again of what was happening behind those walls. In the morning, she’d hear the laughter and the running; sometimes the deafening silence. And in the afternoon, she would see them carried by friends of her age, colored sheets with peculiar shapes and symbols…. things she has later known them to be: the alphabets. But those weren’t hers, for her story was entirely different. Her destiny was clear: working in the fields under the sun until her hands were made sore, and later at a – not – so – older – age, she would probably take a spouse and probably carry out her tasks in the same way, only this time with an extra load of a man and a family….
In the 21 st century, many Yemeni Women are still denied their right to education because books and intellect will no doubt corrupt their innocence. Yemeni women are married off at such tender ages since the underlying, social consensus compresses and limits their duties in only taking responsibility for a man, a family and a household. In this day and age, some Yemeni Women are crushed over and over again and are still placed at the bottom of the patriarchy. In Yemen, despite the oppression, the war and the hopelessness, Yemeni women still choose to fight.
The story has a twist though. This is not how Eftikar’s story ends. After all, she has taken care of that old man’s herd in exchange of him teaching her the alphabets. In 6 months, Eftikar went from illiterate to literate and without her family’s knowledge. She then moved to the city and joined school in complete secrecy and paid for her own education from knitting clothes. She was married off in grade 9 to a man who believed that an educated woman is an asset and not someone to be ashamed of, and thus has helped her through her education and self-discovery. Today, Eftikar AlShamery has helped around 6000 girls graduate from her foundation for illiterate girls. She is also a volunteer in children protection and works to ensure equal education for the war – displaced of both girls and boys.
Eftikar sets the example of the Yemeni Woman who has chosen not to flee her circumstances but rather fight them.
On Thursday – December 12, 2019, in Magical City Cinema Hall, and on the platform of TedxSanaaWomen, Yemen Fighters spoke aloud, sharing their experiences, narrating their sufferings and the 100 obstacles that society and war has shackled them with.
“TedxSanaaWomen: Bold & Brilliant” was curated by a group of Yemeni youth, led by Manal AlAshwal and Ghassan Shamsan – the event licensee, who with the help of their team – a total of 48 – overcame many obstacles and succeeded in creating a Tedx event of International standards.
“I was very excited to have been chosen to lead the Tedx Team, but the obstacles were too many that I started having second thoughts. Many have tried to frustrate us by telling us that during the current situation, the time for inspiring stories has ended. We were scared but chose to continue anyway. The event started, ended and succeeded. We were thrilled.”– Manal AlAshwal, Doctorate Student Majoring in Medical Parasites at UM University and TedxSanaaWomen Coorganizer.
The event was an overwhelming experience that created a sense of motivation and understanding among the audience. Through the diverse entries of the participants, the never told and unknown stories and struggles of Yemeni women were brought into existence, bringing the audience in first contact with what it feels like to be a Yemeni woman in the center of a storm of social and domestic
The smell of coffee took hold of the entire hall. Who would mistake that strong, rich aroma that spoke of Yemen and for Yemen? It simply takes us back to the fields, to the ports, to that lazy Friday afternoon, and to all those early mornings. It sadly takes us to times that no longer exist. The gathering was full of pride. They talked about their civilizations and she did about hers. They asked many questions and of course, she would answer them all- she who was been so rooted to her history. But the next question she did not see coming. She drinks coffee no doubt, but what was the best type of Yemeni coffee? THAT took her off- guard. I Do Not Know was Arzaq AlNajjar’s only answer. Well luckily, what could have been a mere question for many of us has been her wake-up call! In 2016, Arzaq decided that it was about time the half- buried Yemeni Coffee was revived and again introduced to the international market. She has chosen her MA research to be about Yemeni Coffee; the decision was not to excel in her degree but to help that Yemeni bean compete. How come the Yemeni Coffee, the first to be exported to international markets is no longer in the international market? Throughout her speech, Arzaq AlNajjar answers the former question and talks about her journey backwards, looking for the origins of that miraculous bean, an origin almost like our own.
The event climaxed with an exhibition of an unbelievable spectacle of the explosive talents that emits the essence of the Yemeni female soul in a patriotic mold.
The melody in Noran khaled’s voice soothes us all, and the daring voices of Sakhr and Yasmin gave the event an international flavor. Quite often were we reminded by our Yemeni heritage, which we might have forgotten- hated at times due to the political disturbance that the country has been facing for more than five years.
The women who took part in the event have chosen to see the light at the end of the tunnel and to never mistake it for the deadly train. The Bold & Brilliant have reminded us all of what a woman can do; what she is meant to do, only if she chose to fight.
Researching with experts for years, Arzaq founded her own business in 2018. A business that smelled only of coffee. It was her Coffee Research & Studies Center that produced the first Yemeni Coffee Map that included not only the number of Yemeni governorates producing coffee, but also the names,districts, quantities and types. The map manufactured by Arzaq and her fellow researchers is considered to be the first of its type not only in Yemen but worldwide. By believing that her future is tied to that of this brownish bean Arzaq AlNajjar takes the Yemeni Coffee to a different level and makes us dare to believe that the fields, the ports, the lazy Friday afternoon and all early mornings shall exist once again.
Esra’ AlNaggar is a 26-year-old English graduate from the Faculty of Languages, Sana’a University. She was born and raised in Yemen and has been living there for the last 25 years of her life. She was an intern at National Yemen Newspaper and then later volunteered at the media center of GDRSC. Besides The Elixir, Esra’ works as a freelance writer for The New Arab Newspaper. Find Esra’ on Twitter @EsraNajjar