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05SANAA3603 2005-12-28 13:00:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Sanaa
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1. Summary: During a December 26 meeting with female
representatives from Yemen's major political parties,
General People's Congress (GPC) member Fatima Khatari shared
the secrets to her recent successful campaign for the party's
General Committee. Khatari explained to the group, who meet
regularly through a Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI)
program, how she and her campaign manager/sister Khadija
utilized campaign skills
taught by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) to lobby
party members for support and secure a coveted seat on the
party's highest committee. The Khatari sisters expressed
their appreciation for USG support, saying success would have
been impossible without the campaign training provided by
NDI. End Summary.


Women's Network: Strength in Numbers


2. With the help of a $695,000 MEPI grant, NDI is working
with representatives from Yemen's four largest political
parties to increase women's political participation. As
part of that effort, NDI established the Women's Network, in
which representatives from the ruling GPC, along with
opposition parties Islah, Yemen Socialist Party (YSP) and
the Nasserite Unionist Party, meet regularly to discuss ways
to strengthen the role of women within parties and advance
women's issues nationally as a coalition. Some of the
Network's activities include developing a lobbying strategy
to encourage party leadership to adopt a quota for female
candidates in the 2006 local council elections and
discussing ways to increase female registration and turn-out
in targeted districts. To support the activities the Network
agrees on, NDI provides training on conflict resolution,
negotiation, strategic planning, and campaign tactics.


On the Campaign Trail: A Winning Strategy


3. During a December 26 Network meeting, the Khatari sisters
shared with the group how they successfully employed the
campaign tactics taught by NDI (along with some of their own
special adaptations) to win Fatima a seat on the GPC's
highest committee, the General Committee. At the seventh GPC
party conference held December 15-18 (ref A), party members
voted to fill 25 open seats on the 38-person committee. The
party leadership reserved four of the seats for female
candidates, following through on a previous commitment to
implement a 15 percent quota for female representation (ref
B). Without the quota, the
sisters said neither one of them stood any chance against a
male candidate. "With the quota, we decided one of us must
run," Fatima told the group.

4. They decided to canvass party members to determine which
sister already had more name recognition. Both sisters are
active GPC members. Fatima works in the Women's Affairs and
Local Council divisions for the national party. Khadija is
Activities Director for the GPC,s Sanaa branch. After
canvassing, they decided that Fatima would be the candidate
and Khadija would be the campaign manager.

5. "I really benefited from the (NDI) workshop on leading a
campaign," explained Khadija, who developed the campaign
strategy. First, Khadija created a brightly colored flyer
with a "short and clear message" to distribute to voters. She
also worked with Fatima to practice responses on why she
would be a good committee member.

6. With a platform and campaign literature in hand, the
sisters split duties on lobbying party members. The sisters
believed the best way to gain support was to focus on
influential and well-respected party members whose
endorsement would in turn generate votes from the
rank-and-file. Fatima focused on getting votes from female
party members, starting with the heads of the women's
committees in all of the governorates and district party

7. Khadija took on the harder task of convincing men to
support Fatima. Like her sister, she started with the most
prominent and well-respected party members. Khadija also
convinced Fatima's husband to call voters from his home
governorate of Haja, urging them to support his wife. During
the actual conference, she made sure every voting member
received one of the brightly colored flyers, including the
most powerful party member of all, President Saleh. Khadija
proudly explained to the group that when she was called to
cast her own vote for the General Committee, she confidently
placed a "Vote Fatima" flyer
directly into the hands of Saleh, who was manning the ballot
box. Her tenacity also caught the eye of PM Abdul Kader
Ba-jammal who called her "the Fighter" after she was the only
woman to observe every second of the voting and counting of
ballots, which lasted until the next morning. (Note:
Ba-jammal became the new GPC Secretary General during the
conference by presidential fiat, thus sparing him the trouble
of campaigning like the Khatari sisters).

8. In the end, the Fighter's strategy paid off and Fatima
won a seat on the General Committee. "Thank you for the
workshops," Fatima said to the NDI coordinators present,
"we really achieved something."




9. Although Yemen is the poorest and least developed country
in the region, women's political participation is
significantly higher than neighboring oil-rich states. Yemen
was the first country on the Arabian Peninsula to enfranchise
women and allow them to run for all national and local
offices. Women have been elected in every election since
unification in 1990, albeit in very small numbers. The ROYG
has also showed a stronger commitment to integrating women
into the political system, including supporting the 15
percent quota for female representation in the 2006 local
elections and creating a special women's representative on
the national election commission.

10. Despite being a regional leader on women's rights, the
Yemeni political system remains dominated by a handful of
male government officials and tribal leaders. Even most
men, especially those lacking familial connections to
powerful politicians, find it difficult to break into the
closed system. While the rank-and-file GPC members hold
little sway in overall party policy and government
administration, the Khatari sisters' easy grasp of the basics
of democratic campaigning bodes well for the future of women
in Yemen. With the help of MEPI funding, women are steadily
gaining the skills necessary to begin slowly chipping away at
the male-dominated political structure.