Women and men stood together in Tunisia in the first Arab Spring revolution in 2010. As the country progresses toward a new constitution, women and their support networks are watchful of equality of conditions in everyday life and in the developing constitution.
The post-revolution optimism for an all-inclusive prosperous society is perhaps not as abundant as in the early days of the new order. Some equal-rights supporters are concerned over the emergence of trends in linking conservative religious ideals to politics and governing policy. Last October at the one-year anniversary of the revolutionary election, an editorial columnist wrote, “A year later, we have no democracy, no trust in elected officials, no improved constitution. Human rights and women’s rights are threatened.” And Hédia Jrad, from the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women said, “our equality before the law is enshrined in any future constitution.”
The rights of women to participate in decision-making in Tunisia have typically been broader in comparison to other North African countries. For more than a half-century, Tunisian women have celebrated Women’s Day on August 13 to promote an equal place of women in the country. Even so, there are women who still struggle for an essential right to decide to work and for more self-determination in their personal lives.
Gender Concerns International supports the women of Tunisia as the country struggles to place itself on long-term solid ground that allows all voices to be heard. Our Gender Election Monitoring program in Tunisia in 2011 helped provide a recognition and voice for the inclusion of women in electoral processes and decision-making. Women can be positive catalysts for change and should have opportunities to bring such valuable contributions to their own government.
Other Gender Concerns initiatives in planning are aimed at increasing the capacity of women through recognition of issues that affect citizens of the country. Programs to train media personnel and female members of parliament about gender-inclusion challenges and policies are some ways to achieve a lasting inclusive balance.
Information and participation are key as we work to justify optimism for a Tunisia in which all citizens can have a voice at all levels. It's too important of a time for the first revolution to lose focus of its ideals of equality.