Yemen: “Maintaining my identity in a male dominated society”

My name is Salma Al-Furase and I am twenty-four years old. Growing up in Yemen – a patriarchal society where it is often difficult for women to access opportunities – my father encouraged my sister and I to always pursue our goals and challenge existing biases in our society.

In my country, women are traditionally expected to be guided by a male figure – either their father, brother or husband. My father was the male figure in my life. He made sure that we knew education was the key to life’s success. We were the exception in Yemeni society where it is common for girls to only be allowed to complete high school and expected to get married soon after.

As a school girl, I was interested in being a part of social and youth activities and I received my father’s full support. I joined university and successfully graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer sciences. I then started to look for employment as I wanted to start supporting my family. I was able to get a job at a local company.

The conflict in Yemen escalated in March 2015. Things were already difficult after the revolution in 2011 with the country’s economy starting to decline. However, things took a dramatic turn and quickly got worse in 2015 as civil servants like my father stopped receiving salaries and the cost of living in Yemen became much higher. Like most other companies, the company I was working in had to close as it could no longer operate.

Desperate to find a way to support my family, I started looking for other options. It is very difficult to find employment in Yemen these days and I felt that it would be better to start my own business. I also wanted to do something that would not only provide me with a stable income, but would also define me and be in line with my beliefs.

I thought of opening a coffee shop for women in the local market. I had observed that when women go shopping they have a hard time finding a decent place to rest, get refreshed or even use a clean rest room. An affordable coffee shop in the middle of the market would solve this problem. I applied for a training opportunity with CARE’s economic empowerment project as a first step in learning how to start my business. I was very fortunate to be accepted and to receive the start-up loan for my business.

I successfully opened my coffee shop and now have a daily income. I also started to organize women gatherings and festivals in my coffee shop including a bazar for women entrepreneurs, a three-day event where people can purchase their goods including traditional clothes, make up and perfumes.

I am so happy that I have gotten this opportunity, that I am now able to contribute to my community – and to make my family proud.

Learn more about CARE's work to empower women like Salma >>

You can help women and girls in Yemen by donating to CARE's Emergency Response Fund.