Days after Tawakkol Karman was announced a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate; I talked with a female friend of mine in Yemen. One thing that she said that still resonates with me when I asked her how she felt of Karman’s accomplishment was, “Karman opened a door for us (Yemeni women), and it is our responsibility to not let this door close again.” It is truly remarkable how Tawakkol Karman, the Yemeni “Iron Woman”, has transformed the Yemeni revolution into a cultural revolution in which new ground was broken for women in Yemen and across the Middle East. Karman is a notable example of Muslim women realizing incredible leadership and equality to men. I was utterly surprised when a Yemeni man once called Karman, “A Woman worth a Thousand Men” on TV. I lived in Yemen my entire life and I have never heard anyone say that about a woman before. Before I left Yemen to attend college in the United States, I worked as an English teacher for both conversation and debate classes in 4U English and Computer Institute in Sana’a. One particular class that I will never forget was an all-female class that I had the privilege of teaching. There were approximately twenty-three female students in that class who came from many different backgrounds and perspectives; it was here that I was exposed to young Yemeni women’s perspective about contemporary issues that our country is facing. In class, we adopted different topics to discuss. Many of these discussions revolved around the development of young women in Yemeni society and the obstacles that may prevent young women from fully participating in making a difference; obstacles such as early marriage, inadequate education, and discrimination. Many of these discussions left me wondering how different Yemen would be if these young ladies had a chance to make a difference. It took a woman like Karman to break that cultural constraint on Yemeni women that prevented them for decades from equally participating in their society. For many young women in Yemen, Karman is a heroine and an incredible leader. For me Karman is certainly a Woman worth a Thousand Men.
Intern, Nobel Peace Prize Forum