Women in Yemen find their voice

Traditionally in Yemen, women are literally not allowed to raise their voices. Even calling out in the street to attract someone's attention is considered unacceptable.

But in recent weeks, many women in the country have discovered their voice as they joined in the revolution that has not only swept the country but the region as well.

Women's participation in this revolution started on a very small scale. There were only about 10 women in Sanaa's Change Square when the pro-democracy protests started.

But with each day, their number grew as female protesters brought their sisters, cousins and friends to the demonstrations.

Most surprisingly, women protesters were treated with respect. Usually, women in Yemen can expect to be harassed, but Change Square proved to be the safest place in the country for women.

The idea of political participation is still alien to many women here. It is a process and we are still at the very beginning. Despite this, female protesters have come from all sectors of society - women like me who do not cover their faces and others who are much more conservative.

We are all coming to an awareness that we have to be a part of building this country. We are gaining in confidence and beginning to realize that we have a voice, a place in this new society - something that has never happened before.

It's a revolution not just against a political leader but also against a generation that long felt it was acceptable to repress women. Many young women like myself face resistance from our parents, who demand to know why we think change is so important.

Few of them understand why we're demanding that President Ali Abdullah Saleh step aside and allow for a peaceful transfer of power and the beginning of a new, democratic process, to have the same result here as in Egypt and Tunisia.

I am worried about what the future holds - not because of the fear of violence, but because of the uncertainty. But when I go to Change Square I see the harmony and tolerance between the different protesters, a sign that a peaceful change is possible.

Contact Nasser, a reporter in Yemen who writes for The Institute for War & Peace Reporting, at www.iwpr.net.