More than 150 people attended an Iftar dinner hosted by Counterpart International’s Responsive Government Project (RGP) in Yemen to mark the holy month of Ramadan and to celebrate its work with USAID and civil society government partners.

The attendees heard from the U.S. Embassy in Yemen’s Acting Deputy Chief of Mission, Ellen Thornburn and the USAID Mission Director Herbie Smith. Thornburn praised the achievements of the civil society sector, telling the audience that they inspired hope for the future.

Noting that civil society is growing rapidly in Yemen, Smith emphasized that with each new organization, “There is an opportunity to develop a partnership between the state and civil society to ensure Yemen’s goals and aspirations are at the heart of policy decisions.”

Tahani Al-Khaibah, Gender Specialist at RGP-Yemen, attended the dinner and shares these thoughts about the event and her work in Yemen:

Ramadan is a time for reflection and the Iftar dinner hosted by RGP gave many of Counterpart International’s civil society and government partners an opportunity to do that—reflect on the strides and developing relationships made over the past year. Throughout the night, I constantly overheard people repeating, “Come talk to me when you are done with them.”

It was inspiring to attend the dinner and hear firsthand some of the ways RGP has helped organizations and individuals grow and prosper in their communities. People like Mazin Jarhoom — a young man who was first introduced to RGP last year as one of the 40 youth volunteers recruited to assist at Yemen’s 10-month-long National Dialogue Conference, reconciliatory talks designed to pave the way for Yemen’s new constitution.

The volunteers did everything from make copies to help mediate when discussions got heated. Now, Jarhoom is working with an up-and-coming civil society organization called Change Your Life. Working as the project manager at Change Your Life, Jarhoom will be partnering with RGP on a project designed to expand the role of youth during Yemen’s political transition.

As I watched the crowds exchange laughter, business cards and stories of projects being implemented all over Yemen, I chatted with the head of the Women’s National Committee, a government affiliated-body working on female empowerment. As the gender specialist at RGP, it’s always nice to have the opportunity to brag about the work the Women’s Independent Network (WIN) is doing to ensure that a gender-based agenda is prioritized in policy decisions, including the inclusion of an article in the constitution that stipulates a no less than 30 percent representation quota for women at all levels of government.

RGP Gender Specialist, Tahani Al-Khaibah (right) with Fatihya Abdulwasa (left), a women’s rights activist at the RGP Iftar dinner.

WIN was created in 2013 with RGP support and stands as a model of how women are gaining clout through partnership and collaboration. This year RGP also helped establish two other networks, the Independent Youth Network (IYN) and the Civil Strengthening Network (CSN), both serving as platforms to elevate the voices of Yemenis as their new government is formed.

WIN’s chairperson, Fatima Mashhoor, spoke at the dinner on behalf of civil society organizations, and praised the collaboration both within the civil society sector itself and with government partners. “Together everyone is making gains,” she said.

Deputy Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Omar Abdulaziz, reiterated Mashhoor’s words, saying there isn’t an end to what the government and civil society can accomplish together.

As Ramadan draws to end, I am confident that moving forward only more good things are to come.

 

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