MDI Platform for Women Empowerment
- Angela Kontouli : Coordinator
- Leila Ben Gacem : Board
- Mabrouka Gasmi : Board
Since independence, Tunisia has made significant progress towards gender equality, extensively reforming family law, and gradually eliminating gender-based discrimination in relation to health, education and employment.
A range of women’s movements emerged in the 1980s. These played a key role in making women’s equality central to public debate, and helped to draft legislation leading to a gender-parity quota on party electoral lists. In February 2014, a new constitution that advances social and political gains for women was ratified, and in the October 2014 elections women’s representation rose from 4% in 1990 to 31% of the current parliament.
Despite the progress achieved to date, several factors continue to impede women’s voice and gender equality in Tunisia. These include the enduring character of patriarchal social norms and the role of traditions in social and family life, which are a source of discriminatory practices and belief systems that disadvantage women. There is also a range of other socio-political and institutional barriers that limit the effectiveness of some of the measures reviewed above, and constrain the space for women’s voice and agency at the collective and individual level.
This is a loss for women, of course. But it’s also a social and economic loss for people and economic development generally. Research shows that everyone does better when women share the reins of power. “Start-ups led by women are more likely to succeed; innovative firms with more women in top management are more profitable; and companies with more gender diversity have more revenue, customers, market share and profits.
At the end of the day, we simply lack enough compelling models for what female empowerment should look like. This should change as more women manage to break into leadership roles.
As part of its activities to support women and women leadership, the MDI is organizing jointly with ODI, the London-based Oversee Development Institute, a conference on Women Empowerment in Tunisia. The event will take place on September 25 and will discuss the recent Report of ODI: “Building Momentum, Women’s Empowerment in Tunisia”, the progress achieved, the factors driving change, the challenges but also the lessons that can be learnt from others experiences.
The objective of the conference is to use the ODI report as an entry point to generate discussion around whether the mechanisms which explain women’s empowerment to date in Tunisia (as outlined in the report) can be exploited/used/drawn upon to reflect on how further progress can be made towards women’s empowerment in Tunisia. What this means for women in Tunisia in the future is a question which should be led and driven by Tunisian women – and which the conference provides a perfect opportunity for. There should be a focus on identifying where there are specific barriers to further progress in women’s equality in Tunisia and an open discussion around how and if the mechanisms identified can be used to address them.
The conference will bring speakers from political, social and economic horizons in both the private and public spheres, at different levels (national, subnational) to reflect the multi-dimensional concept of Women’s empowerment.
Women’s empowerment goes beyond the definition of gender equality (which focuses on women’s condition relative to men) and incorporates the extent to which women have the power and ability to make choices and control their own destiny. Following Kabeer (1999), women’s empowerment involves the process by which women gain the ability to make and enact strategic life choices. For Eyben (2011) empowerment takes place when ‘individuals and organised groups are able to imagine their world differently and to realise that vision by changing the relations of power that have kept them in poverty, restricted their voice and deprived them of their autonomy’
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