Roma Al-Damasi (Yemen)
Roma Al-Damasi is a peace activist and the founder and president of the Khadija Foundation for Development (KFD) and the all-inclusive center for persons with disabilities in southwestern Yemen. She is also one of the few women on the conflict resolution committees in her region. Al-Damasi has transformed the lives of women, minorities and people with disabilities through her advocacy, humanitarian and peacebuilding work.
Al-Damasi has created a pool of dedicated peace advocates in southwestern Yemen. She has trained advocates at 45 civil society organizations, including 80 women, on peace strategies and conflict resolution and led the creation of 15 women-led associations in villages that advocate for women’s and minorities’ rights. As a result, over 500 community volunteers have been trained to address negative social attitudes and disputes related to girls’ education, early marriage, domestic violence and discrimination against minorities. Al-Damasi’s efforts have encouraged conservative parents to enroll their daughters in school. Al-Damasi contributed to the Women’s Rights Matrix and Peace Building Program, which trained 63 women activists in the Al-Dhalea governorate and helped them form a women’s network to replicate the peace training.
Al-Damasi has earned respect from both men and women through her consideration for local culture, adoption of transparency and impartiality, and effective linking of peacebuilding to service provision and collective action. She successfully mediated a long-running dispute between two villages over access to water, convincing them to reconcile and agree to share the water resources. Afterward, she helped the local communities construct a water reservoir with funding from KFD. To sustain the peace and ensure water sustainability, Al-Damasi mobilized local businesses and philanthropists to fund a community water maintenance committee. International NGOs who implement projects in her region often seek her assistance to resolve community conflict over project locations and beneficiary selection.
Despite the dire situation in Yemen, Al-Damasi has managed to keep KFD in operation to provide health care, education and training services to over 600 persons with disabilities every month, as well as humanitarian support to internally displaced persons. As a founding member of the Yemen Civil Alliance for Peace, she has brought together organizations from the north and south of the country to promote peaceful co-existence. Al-Damasi also serves as chair of the Yemen Civil Society Network, as a member of the Arab Union for peace activities, and as chair of the Yemen Women’s Union.