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13 Safar 1435 A.H. 

Women sit at the Banat Café (Girls Café ), the first women-only cafe in Sanaa November 25, 2013. (Reuters)

“Girls Café,” which caters only for women, has recently opened for business in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa.

Director of “Girls Café,” Taghreed Ali, said her new business will give “comfort” to women.

“The other cafes are mixed, and even when they have a dedicated space for women, it is usually small and uncomfortable. So this was the first reason that encouraged us to open a women-only café,” she said.

The coffee shop so far has received positive feedback from women.

Dhikra al-Wahedi, a Sanaa resident, said “this place is beautiful, it provides us with comfort, privacy and peace and all our needs are available here, there is for example a small library, ready meals and other services.”

As well as serving meals, the café has a reading area and women can also come here to use the internet.

Yemen is one of the worst countries for women in the Arab world, according to gender experts surveyed in a Thomson Reuters Foundation poll released this month.

The poll assessed violence against women, reproductive rights, treatment of women within the family, their integration into society and attitudes towards a woman’s role in politics and the economy.

Sabah al-Khaishani, a mass communication professor at Sanaa University says it is reasons such as avoiding sexual harassment that makes this café a good place for women.

“The Yemeni woman finds it hard to find the right place to go to and this is a problem. The public parks are open and they are beautiful but they are also places where the percentage of sexual harassment and flirting is very high. So places such as this cafe are good because they mainly attract women customers and are trusted. There are also other mixed places which are good because their owners are keen to preserve their good reputation,” said al-Khaishani who comes to the cafe frequently.

Another Sanaa resident says the café provides a platform for building social relations.

“What makes this place special is the fact that it can also be considered as a forum where many women from all walks of life, students, housewives, working women, meet in one place to exchange knowledge, get to know each others, and improve their cultural knowledge,” said Sumia al-Qawas.

Historically marginalized, Yemeni women have been fighting for their rights since the 2011 Arab Spring. Experts say child marriage, human trafficking and rape are endemic.

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