2 workshops: February 19-20; March 11-12 2016
Gender equality and women’s rights are integral components of Tunisia’s democratic transition process. These goals are enshrined in Articles 21 and 46 of the Tunisian Constitution. However, there are still major gender disparities in areas like public life and decision-making, especially at the regional and local levels. This is regardless of the constitutional and legal breakthroughs the country has recorded in gender equality issues. The main concern is that these gender gaps can threaten current achievements, and consequently undermine the evolution of social relations in Tunisia.
To raise more awareness about some of these concerns, the Forum of Federations organized two workshops for about twenty female delegates from different Tunisian regions. These workshops were part of Phase III of the “In support of decentralization in Tunisia” project, which is financed by the Canadian government. They were organized in partnership with the Centre de recherches, d’études, de documentation et d’information sur la femme (CREDIF) and the Centre de développement international pour la gouvernance locale innovante (CILG-VNGi), In sum, the meetings aimed to enhance the presence of women in decision-making roles at the regional and local levels.
Samira Mérai Friaa, Minister of Family, Women, and Children, opened the proceedings of the first session, which was held in Tunis on February 19 and 20. She recalled how Tunisian women’s struggle for equality and freedom started in 1956, and how Tunisia is the Arab country which provides the most rights to women. This makes Tunisian women the exception to the rule in the Arab-Muslim sphere, although their participation in the political arena remains very discreet.
In order to reconcile conceptual and practical aspects related to gender, decentralization and local governance, Jinan Limam, a legal expert specializing in gender and decentralization issues, reviewed various articles of the Tunisian Constitution. This was to establish a legal basis for equality. Her goal was to encourage delegates to take ownership of the possibilities offered by constitutional articles and their potential applications in the course of upcoming municipal elections. Canadian expert, and former president of the Fédération des femmes du Québec (FFQ), Alexa Conradi, worked with the participants on public speaking and argumentation, through various exercises and role playing.
The second session was held on March 11 and 12, in Tunis, with the same participants. This workshop aimed at enhancing civil solidarity, and strengthening the delegates’ cooperative practices, to help them increase their influence and their collective power. During the introductory session, Ridha Saadi, former governor of Manouba, talked again about the role and mission of territorial delegates, insisting on the perspectives for change in a new decentralization context.
Territorial delegates are not elected, but are part of the State’s civil service, and are very concerned about their professional career. In response to this concern, Jinan Limam once again talked about parity in the statutes of the civil service.
Following a presentation on Quebec’s equality policy, Alexa Conradi had the participants work in small groups on empowerment and capacity building in a climate of sexism. The last session focussed on strengthening the delegates’ capacity to manage the changes brought on by decentralization of powers, all concepts that groups of participants were able to grasp by participating in role-playing exercises.
All the delegates received certificates and USB keys of the presentations given during the two sessions.