From local to international: gender equality and Agenda 2030 in Tunisia

Field visits to local cooperatives and an international forum, hosted by UN Women, on the state of gender equality in the world. The spotlight on women’s human rights was shining on Tunisia as activists and decision-makers came together to find collective solutions.

We are supporting, together with our partner Women Environmental Programme Tunisia, local women’s cooperatives in their work to develop sustainable business initiatives. We therefore took the opportunity to visit one of the women’s cooperatives in North of Tunis who got together to share a sales shop at the market in the nearby town, as well as a incubator to grow chickens.

The region is well known for its excellent quality pumpkins, from which the women produce jams and juices. They also produce herbs and spices and different cereals and porridge. When asked what their priorities are for sustainable development, the women respond that they would want to formalise their cooperatives to have a legal status or have their own bank accounts. In regards to environmental sustainability, they think there is a problem with waste, plastic waste in particular, and that there are not enough alternatives to plastic packaging.

Our Women2030 project is providing small grants for training and pilot projects to help develop these women’s cooperatives. The priorities of the local women are used as a basis in WEP Tunisia’s shadow report which is currently being prepared for the United Nations High Level Political Forum. It is an alternative report to the country’s Voluntary National Review which will be presented at the UN headquarters this summer under the Agenda 2030 process.

Photo: Women’s cooperative members make us taste their excellent pumpkin juice

Women’s local leadership – Our Tunisian partners also participated in the Tunis Forum on Gender Equality, a global event with over 500 feminists, where we shared lessons and best practices to advance women’s rights. The conference is part of the preparatory work ahead of the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action next year. One of the focus areas was ‘Breaking into policies – communities supporting women in local governance’ a session organised by the Kvinna till Kvinna and moderated by our Sascha Gabizon. We learned how a women’s rights organisation in Tunisia has a network of trainers to prepare young women to stand as candidates in elections, with great success. In Tunisia, women make up 47% of the elected politicians in the local governments.

“In Tunisia, women make up 47% of the elected politicians in the local governments.”

Other political leaders in the session stressed the importance of engaging young women. The participant from Nepal told us how she had joined her first election campaign, handing out flyers, at the age of 11, and then became a trainer of female politicians once she was a student. All panelists stressed the great importance of having national instruments such as quota’s for women on electoral lists, including rules about replacing a politician who leaves with someone of the same gender, and having ‘zebra’-lists, where on electoral lists, one gender follows the next. Women in politics face many barriers, of which harassment and violence, including sexual abuse and online abuse, where the most quoted. The lack of independent funding for campaigns often makes women candidates dependent of male party members.

The recommendations and priorities of all the sessions at the Tunis Gender Equality Forum have been published by UNWOMEN and UNDP and serve as input for the upcoming policy process of Beijing+25. The feminists of civil society in addition published their own statement on sexual violence which can be found below.

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Photo credits: Tunis Forum on Gender Equality / UN WOMEN & UNDP
Photo credits: Tunis Forum on Gender Equality / UN WOMEN & UNDP
Photo credits: Tunis Forum on Gender Equality / UN WOMEN & UNDP
Photo credits: Tunis Forum on Gender Equality / UN WOMEN & UNDP