Happy Women’s Day!
It’s not difficult for me to assess a simple yet significant element in Tunisia’s progress and future success as a flourishing democracy. It was very noticeable and visible in the public sphere: the empowerment and integration of women into society.
Renowned economist Amartya Sen contends that no society will progress to its fullest potential without freedoms. And freedoms must facilitate mobility and empowerment of all segments of society. In Tunisia, I could see how comfortably and routinely men and women interact and give each other space in the public sphere. It’s not a perfect gender mainstreaming model, but it is by far one of the most progressive that I’ve seen throughout my travels in the Middle East. Tunisia still has a stream of conservatism, but the cosmopolitan north, including the capital Tunis, and upscale areas like La Marsa and Gammarth, and even the older quarters like Medina and Bardo, all teem with women and men from all walks of life working, walking, driving, and directing. I saw three female traffic police directing traffic in Bardo, and I also saw a woman in military uniform walking in Medina. I saw a woman waitress in a traditional cafe in Bardo, where all the patrons, besides me, were men. I met a dynamic young fashionista with a red bow in her hair, riding the tram and speaking to me in English. She is studying fashion at the local university. And, I sat in the audience when Rashid Ghannouchi, head of the ruling En-Nahda Party, spoke at the Center of the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) in Tunis, and during Q&A a famous diehard feminist came to the mic and pounded the podium, expressing her concerns about the Islamization of Tunisian society.
Tunisia must continue to embrace progressive gender parity. Failing to do so will be the failure of the Tunisian model. The rest of the regional actors should learn from this model, if they wish to succeed in their post-dictator political and socioeconomic systems.
NOTE: Everything I write in this blog constitutes my personal opinions and views.