Text of Gender Concerns Speech at EU Parliament Event

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Text of speech:

Gender Parity – Still a Long Way to Achieve Inclusive Governance in Tunisia

Sabra Bano to the EU, 13 November 2014


Good afternoon esteemed partners/guests,

It is with great pleasure that I join you here today to share the experiences of myself and Gender Concerns International in our work in Tunisia. This mission, Gender Election Watch 2014, was undertaken jointly between the Tunisian League of Human Rights (LTDH), the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women (ATFD), the Association of Tunisian Women for Research and Development (AFTURD) and Gender Concerns International (GCI).

Gender Election Watch 2014 comprised of 10 international and 100 national female election observers deployed across 22 governorates. The mission highlights women’s current and potential participation in political process, with a particular focus on those in rural areas. Monitoring of electoral processes from a gender perspective underscores the societal and political challenges that must be overcome to ensure inclusive governance in the future of Tunisia.

Women comprised 47% of the total number of candidates in the parliamentary elections, with only 12% of the head of lists represented by women. Levels of women as the head of list were significantly lower in rural areas. Women have been elected to a total of 68 out of 217 seats in the Tunisian Parliament. Women thus have an approximate representation of 31% in parliament. This is a highly significant result for women’s political participation in governance structures in Tunisia. The representation of Tunisian women in one-third of the parliamentary seats, across six political parties shows the continuing strength of the women’s movement. Quotas for women’s representation in parliament in a number of countries allows for the symbolic inclusion of women in politics that may not otherwise materialise. The inclusion of women as one-third of the parliament’s composition, directly through their election by the Tunisian public, demonstrates a tangible commitment to inclusive governance practices. How this will influence government formation remains to be seen.

Gender Concerns International and our partners will also be monitoring the upcoming Presidential election on 23 November 2014, in addition to the potential run-off election on 28 December 2014. With only one female candidate running in the Presidential election on 23 November, the importance of the campaign period is highly significant. My team and our partners will be actively engaged in following the campaign discourse and its impact on gender issues within Tunisia. Gender Concerns International will conduct an analysis across both the campaign and the election process for the Presidential elections.

The evaluation of women and gender issues will address governance structures in Tunisia; media coverage of the female candidate and of the attention given to gender issues by candidates more broadly; the media construction of the role of women in political participation; any negative discourse targeted toward women as part of political processes; and any real or potential influence exerted over women in their participation, in any form, in the political arena.

Through our monitoring and evaluation of the parliamentary elections, Gender Concerns International and our partners formulated a number of recommendations to be considered by governmental institutions, civil society and media organisations nationally in Tunisia and at the international level.


Our recommendations are as follows:

1.      A greater number of awareness campaigns and close monitoring of the participation of women in rural areas remains necessary. In order to help illiterate women to vote, much more emphasis should be given to the symbols of the lists in order to simplify the voting procedure.  

2.      Attention should be paid to finding some practical measures within polling stations to help women with young children to vote, especially when the waiting time is long.

3.      The constitutional principle of parity must be legally ensured in the composition of all elected bodies (article 46 of the Tunisian new Constitution) and state institutions, especially in ISIE and HAICA. A gender unit is necessary to guarantee a gender balance in the composition and operational framework of the electoral administration and other involved instances.

4.      The media coverage of women candidates should be improved considerably. The regulations (joint decision ISIE/HAICA), should be reviewed to ensure the equal treatment of male and female candidates. 

5.      A gender perspective should be considered in all statistics related to elections and be published in order to enable civil society to monitor it.   

6.      ISIE should pay special attention to gender-neutral promotion and awareness material.   

7.      The legal consecration of horizontal parity on electoral lists is necessary to guarantee an equal participation of women in elected bodies. Too often, women have had to fight for their right to obtain good places on the lists. 

8.      The composition of the new government should grant Tunisian women the place they deserve in the political scene.

Through the commitment to these recommendations, understanding of the need for gender parity socially and politically, and working towards these ends, Tunisia can continue to be a leader in the promotion of gender issues and women’s rights.