Speech by Sabra Bano for the Deployment of Election Observers on 21 November 2014
Head of Mission Sabra Bano delivered the following speech today during a press conference held in Tunis, Tunisia. Ms. Bano announced the deployment of the gender election monitoring mission for the Presidential Election to be held on 23 November. This marks the commencement of the second period of election monitoring for Gender Election Watch Tunisia 2014. The press conference was attended by a number of national journalists.
I would like to welcome our guests today as we draw very near to this historic presidential election. People of the world who witnessed the birth of the Arab Spring in Tunisia will also be watching Sunday’s demonstration of a young democracy in action. Our Gender Concerns International election monitoring team, along with our partner organisations, will devote our full attention to this day.
We are truly honored to be trusted with such an important role in observing women’s participation in polling stations around the country. It is our aim that through this mission, politicians, media sources – and even those who do not yet acknowledge the importance of gender-balanced electoral processes – will clearly see the indispensable value of helping enable women’s full and fair democratic participation.
It is through this type of gender election monitoring initiative that more women can make crucial contributions as leaders and policy makers. And why should Tunisia and the global community really give importance to this? Because women are catalysts for positive change from the community to the national level, and this positive change begins with the free casting of a single vote.
Our teams have spoken to newly-elected female parliamentarians during our pre-election activities this week. Their motivation and courage to pursue a vision of a more secure and prosperous Tunisia – even while facing realities of poverty, extremism and discrimination – is inspiring to us and this resolve can readily spread to inspire other policy makers of the country to move forward as productive leaders of the country and region.
The Gender Election Monitoring Mission concept was created by Gender Concerns and first implemented in Pakistan parliamentary elections of 2008. Since then, our specialized teams have monitored elections in Tunisia in 2011, Morocco, Libya and a second time in Pakistan. We are bringing our collective experience from these missions to Sunday’s elections. It’s a key opportunity for Tunisia. It’s a key opportunity for women. It’s a key opportunity for democracy.
Gender Concerns has observed that the progress of women in democratic processes and inclusive governance to date is much more than a benchmark to maintain; this progress is a direction of further achievement. It is important not to take women’s democratic participation for granted, or we could see a loss of such precious progress. That is why we are here.
Sunday’s Presidential Election Monitoring mission is part of Gender Election Watch Tunisia 2014, and is being carried out in partnership with 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 is made up of 10 international and 100 national female election observers to be deployed to polling stations around the country. This 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.
It vital that this moment does not go unnoticed in Tunisia, in the MENA region and in other young and developing democracies that see Tunisia as a ground zero where democratic change can take root and flourish. It is a human issue. And progress in gender and democracy requires not only vigilance in guarding against those who want it to fail; it requires transparency and public awareness that can be realised by the work of our friends and associates who are working in media and communications.
Our mission’s 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 October 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 include:
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.
2. More practical measures are needed at polling stations to help women with young children to vote.
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, and ISIE should pay special attention to gender-neutral promotion and awareness material.
By 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.
We at Gender Concerns and our partners are looking with great anticipation to Sunday’s elections. We want to be surprised – in a very good way. We aim to share our election observations with key policy makers who can bring stability to progress made through gender-equal laws and processes. We also aim to share our findings with members of media organizations who can bring higher visibility to what is taking place. Discrimination and oppression thrive when hidden from broader populations who value – and work to achieve – equality and justice. It is our mission to better enable transparency so that free and fair democracy can grow, so that darker times of inequality can fade into history.
Thank you for your time to come here and for your interest in our Gender Election Watch Tunisia 2014. We would also like to extend our sincere thanks to the Foreign Office of Germany for their support of this mission. We are pleased with what we have accomplished so far in monitoring the parliamentary elections, and we look forward to sharing, with you all here and the rest of the world, our observations and recommendations in this presidential election. I am happy to answer any questions.
Head of Mission
Tunisia – 21 November 2014