The women in this village never earned money, never left home without the permission of their husbands. It had been that way for as long as anyone could remember.

Then the war arrived.

Now before dawn each day, mothers and daughters walk to the mountainous scrub to gather wood, which they turn into charcoal and sell. The men stay home and care for the children, and sometimes do the cooking and the cleaning.

“I feel the war has changed my personality,” said Ayde Ahmed Shabon, 33, her voice soft but clear. “I feel equal to the man now.”

Yemen has consistently ranked among the worst countries for women and girls, and the war has only made life harder. But in pockets of the Middle East’s poorest country, an unexpected social recalibration appears to be underway, aid workers say.

As the war destroys jobs and countless men join the fight, a growing number of women are providing income for their families. Often, they are working in areas that had been considered the purview of men or culturally unacceptable for women in Yemen’s ultraconservative tribal society. Some are now butchers, barbers and chicken sellers, interacting socially in ways their mothers and grandmothers could never have imagined.

 

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