Published on Arab Voices

Women in war-torn Yemen seek economic opportunities against all odds

Wazeera, a businesswoman from San'aa City, Yemen. (Credit: UNOPS Yemen) Wazeera, a businesswoman from San'aa City, Yemen. (Credit: UNOPS Yemen)

Yemen faces multiple challenges, including conflict, displacement, and economic instability. These challenges have disproportionately affected women, limiting their access to economic opportunities. In response to this, the World Bank and the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) launched the Women-Owned Business Initiative as part of the Yemen Integrated Urban Services Emergency Project (YIUSEP).

The Women-Owned Business Initiative is designed to promote economic empowerment for women entrepreneurs in Yemen.  The initiative aims to increase the procurement of goods and services from women-owned businesses, as well as to provide technical assistance, mentoring and training to support the growth of women-owned businesses in the country. The program also provides assistance with business plan development and marketing strategies.

The initiative includes an allocation of US$1 million as a procurement target for women-owned businesses, which has already been achieved and exceeded. By increasing the procurement of goods and services from women-owned businesses, the initiative provides a pathway for these businesses to thrive and succeed, ultimately benefiting the broader Yemeni economy.

This initiative is critical in Yemen, where women face significant barriers to economic empowerment due to economic instability and discriminatory social norms. Women-owned businesses are a key driver of economic growth and job creation, and empowering women entrepreneurs can have a significant positive impact on the country's economy and society as a whole. 

"I believe we are capable of overcoming our challenges. We belong to a generation that experienced wars and revolutions, but we also managed to finish college, struggle, and work. As a result, we are capable of doing a lot, and when the chance arises, we will fly, " said Yasmin, a businesswoman from Sanaa city.

The Women-Owned Business Initiative in Yemen took a phased approach, beginning in early 2021 with the identification and vetting of existing women-owned businesses, consultation meetings to identify their needs and challenges, and the development and implementation of a comprehensive training program that was rolled out in mid-2021.

During the implementation of YIUSEP II, 29 women-owned businesses (WOBs) received training, out of which 24 successfully completed their registration as certified vendors. To promote women's economic empowerment, 8 tenders were launched with a total of 17 LOTS. As a result of these tenders, 7 WOBs were awarded contracts worth a total of USD 882k. Contracts were awarded to 3 women-owned businesses in Sana'a, 2 in Aden, and 2 in Hadhramaut, respectively. The number of women who benefited from this initiative and the increased business opportunities in different parts of Yemen show the positive impact of the YIUSEP II program.

“Now, we are open to new ideas in the import sector and are encouraged to do things that we perceived as difficult and intimidating before. After we went through this experience, we discovered that the things we were scared of were simple,” said Wazeera, a businesswoman from Sanaa city.

The Women-Owned Business Initiative is just one example of how targeted investments and support can help address the unique challenges faced by women entrepreneurs in Yemen.  By empowering women and promoting their participation in the workforce, we can drive sustainable development, social cohesion, and peacebuilding in Yemen. It is essential that we continue to invest in women entrepreneurs and support their economic empowerment to drive sustainable development and peace in Yemen.


Federica Ranghieri

World Bank Program Leader for Sustainable Development for Egypt, Yemen, and Djibouti

Fayyaz Ahmad Faiz-Rasul

Programme Manager - UNOPS Yemen

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