_09_big_1.jpgI am on my way back from Yemen, my first visit in seven years. Its a fascinating and complicated place, with strong tribal affiliations, ancient traditions and a challenging and defining political moment. I was there to work on a project focused on the legal framework for girls education.Like so many places, youth make up a high percentage of the population; in Yemen,almost 50% of the population is under 15.

Both girls and boys face challenges but girls face enormous ones, especially in rural areas. Girls and young women have lower levels of education than boys and young men, and Yemen has one of the lowest enrollment rates for girls in the region.

Poverty and social norms are big contributors to these statistics, as well as the lack of women teachers in rural areas and inadequate facilities. In 2008, the government of Yemen calculated that the national enrollment rate for girls in basic education was 74.8% to that of boys, 58.8% to that of boys in secondary (high school) education and 37.5% to that of boys in university education. Addressing these low levels of education is critical to combatting poverty, early marriage and the countrys economic future.

Ill write more about the trip later, but I really loved being back. There was less mobility because of the security concerns, but I was still able to visit the Old City of Sanaa, one of my favorite places in the world. As I walked around the Old City, and watched people buying food, women walking with their kids, vendors hawking their wares, and people walking into mosques to pray, I was reminded of all that we have in common.

More to come.