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Protecting our dignity

A woman wearing a black head covering holding a red dress

Yousra demonstrating a traditional Yemeni women’s dress in her sewing workshop

Yousra demonstrating a traditional Yemeni women’s dress in her sewing workshop

Despite more than four years of conflict and hardship, the women in Yemen are fighting back. They are working extraordinarily hard to overcome cultural barriers, and to build lives for themselves and their families. Yousra Salem is one such young woman.

“Looking back six years, I was completely a different person,” says 29-year-old Yousra. “My father was everything to me, I never used to take any step without going to him first. When he passed away it was very difficult for me to accept the fact that he was gone.”

Yousra goes on to say that when her father died, he left a family of six sisters and their mother without income or protection, which was especially traumatic when their house was destroyed and they were displaced. They lived a hard life, begging in the streets and relying on neighbours to help them. On many days, they only had one meal.

“I was subjected to a lot of harassment and beatings in the street when I begged for money,” says Yousra in tears. Several times she considered suicide, but just as she was on the edge of desperation, she was referred to CARE.

“CARE was like a light of hope for me,” she says. She saw a counsellor who told her that she would receive help.

A woman wearing a black head covering using a sewing machine
Yousra at her sewing machine in her sewing workshop

When she heard about CARE’s training programme for women’s economic empowerment, Yousra struggled to convince her family to let her enrol. Eventually, they relented, and she joined a training programme funded by UNFPA which provided her with financial and entrepreneurship skills.

“I love designing clothes and sewing and I always dreamed of being able to buy a sewing machine,” she says. “Through this financing, I was able to purchase a sewing machine, a clothes iron and a solar power system.” Now, Yousra works making traditional Yemeni dresses called jalabiya, as well as standard women’s dresses and simple children’s clothes; she has many customers.

“I was able to train my sisters in sewing so that they can help me with the project,” says Yousra. “I am earning money, and this helped me pay for my sisters to go back to school and protect our dignity. Thank you CARE.”

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