Although Bay Area Yemenis live in one of the most inclusive, culturally diverse areas in the country, where women’s rights and women’s education were fought for and championed, they’re wary of what many perceive as a morally corrupt society.
It’s the conundrum of being very conservative in the most liberal of places, and it doesn’t help that most Yemenis live in low-income inner city neighborhoods like East Oakland and San Francisco’s Tenderloin district -- places where teen pregnancy rates are high, gangs push drugs, and crime is rampant.
2L Sohir Sumaya Albgal was homeschooled for half of junior high and high school because her family didn’t want her to go to schools in Richmond, Calif.; they weren’t comfortable sending her there. Like most girls in Yemeni families, she was shielded from public school, and then went to Yemen at age 18 to be married.
“I think I chose it because it was a natural trajectory of the expectation my family set for me,” she says, “and also the way I understood my place as a Yemeni woman was: you get married, and that’s kind of where life begins.”
For the majority of Yemeni women here, that’s also where the story ends -- at least in terms of education. But for Albgal, things were different. After she had her son in 2005, her parents agreed that she could try out community college.
Albgal went on to community college, then UC Berkeley. She’s now a second year student at UC Hastings College of the Law. She says she’s the first woman in her community to graduate with a degree. A pioneer.
Read more about Yemeni women like Albgal in New America Media.