One after another, the young Yemeni women list their reasons: “I want to learn more.” “I want to be a journalist.” “I want to work for society.” This drive to make a difference has brought them to the Girls World Communication Centre in Sana’a for courses in computers, English, and leadership skills. Behind a protective wall, the Centre is a hive of activity as the women move from class to class or gather in the flower-edged courtyard. Run by women for women, the Centre’s all-female environment makes it suitable for many of those enrolled and their families.
“This is their chance,” says Salam Al-Shehri, herself a graduate of the Centre’s courses on human rights and now employed there as the coordinator of the Young Women’s Leadership Programme. The Young Women’s Leadership Programme, implemented in partnership with the Centre by IREX Europe and IREX, is providing participants with training in a wide range of professional skills to prepare them for careers as civil society or media professionals or simply to be more competent, informed and confident citizens.
The first 50 participants, all under 25 and some recent secondary school graduates, were selected after interviews this spring from a large pool of applicants to the programme, which is supported by the Global Opportunities Fund of the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office through the British Embassy in Sana’a. A second group will be recruited during 2007.
The two-year curriculum starts with English language, computer and life skills courses. Some of the participants will then prepare for work in civil society, while others have chosen to specialise in the media. The media sequence will include ethics, media law, and journalism practice as well as work on language and presentation. The team of Yemeni media professionals who will deliver the courses starting in September participated in a training-of-trainers workshop in July with an IREX media development specialist.
The Girls World Communication Centre, a nonprofit organization established in 1998, was the first language centre in Yemen catering exclusively to girls. It now offers a wide range of courses, and recently opened a second facility to include young men as participants in its business and management sequence.