Yemen is the least developed country in the Middle East with a position as number 151 out of 177 nations on the Human Development Index and a GDP per capita of US$ 631. On the gender equity scale Yemen demonstrates large inequalities between men and women, ranking 121st out of 140 countries.
Although the number of children has been growing over the last 5 years, recent trends in primary education still point to slow progress. Despite an increase in gross enrolment rates from 73% in 2000/01 to 76% in 2004/05 only 63% of girls were enrolled in 2004/05. The gender gap remains high and while it is being reduced, the rate of change is not enough to ensure that gender parity will be improved to less than 5 points by 2015.
Recent studies clearly show that the main causes for low enrolment and high drop-out rates for girls in Yemen are: 1) lack of accessibility 2) socio-cultural factors and 3) institutional factors. A large part of Yemen’s population, approximately 72% live in rural areas and since
Yemen is a large country with millions of people scattered widely over often difficult terrain, the accessibility of schools is a major challenge in rural areas. At the same time, cultural and social norms have a more defining influence in the rural areas. Cultural and traditional perceptions of women and girls have led to a tradition of segregation between the sexes. This poses specific demands on the education system, such as schools suitable only if within culturally acceptable distances and locations, and the need for female teachers for girls after the fourth grade. The institutions responsible for education have not yet been able to respond sufficiently to these challenges.