Tunisia, Tunis

Femmedina

Souad BEN ABDERRAHIM, Mayor of Tunis

Municipality of Tunis

graphic

Project Description

With regards to gender equality and women’s rights, Tunisia is a pioneer in the MENA region. As early as 1956, the Code of Personal Status (PSC) established a new organization of the family based on equality of rights, through a series of provisions that included: the abolition of the polygamy, the establishment of judicial divorce, the establishment of the minimum legal age of marriage for girls at seventeen, the requirement of the consent of both parties to a marriage and the introduction of the right of children’s custody for mothers, in the case of death of the father.

The central role played by the PSC in consolidating the secular image of the post-colonial regime was evident in the fact that the Code was issued right after the independence of the Country in 1956, and even before the first post-independence Constitution which was approved in 1959. Despite minor changes that coincided with the change of political leadership in 1987, after the replacement of President Habib Bourguiba by Ben Ali, the systems and norms that emerged at the end of the colonial era remained essentially untouched until the outbreak of the Jasmine Revolution in 2011.

In January 2011, after weeks of mass protests, President Ben Ali fled the country and Tunisia’s democratic transition began. Between 2011 and 2014, women’s rights emerged as one of the most contentious topics. In particular, the post-revolution debates about the role of women’s rights in Tunisian society are closely connected to the resurgence of Ennahda, the main Islamist party in Tunisia. In 2011 Ennahda won a majority of seats in the elections to the Constituent Assembly in Tunisia. Fearing erosion of women's rights, Tunisia’s women rights activists, both inside and outside the Constituent Assembly, influenced the constitutional drafting process through the dissemination of the slogan “Not turning back the clock on the rights of Tunisian women”, reminding the people of the importance of the state legacy of preserving the progressive rights enjoyed by Tunisian women. As a result, the Tunisian parliament adopted an array of women’s rights laws including an electoral parity clause that stipulates that women should constitute at least 50 percent of all electoral party lists at all levels of elected councils. Due to this law, in the elections held in May 2018, women ended up with 47% of the local council positions. In addition, in 2017, the parliament passed Law 58, which forbade all forms of gender-based violence, including sexual harassment in public spaces—both workplaces and streets—as well as domestic violence.

In 2017, an important amendment to the PSC that allows Tunisian Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men was enacted and a new bill that would give equal rights for property inheritance rights is currently under discussion. Ms Ben Abderrahim represents a change in the Arab world: a woman holding a top elected position. Even in Tunisia, where women's rights are more advanced than in most other countries of North Africa and the Middle East, her rise is widely seen as a breakthrough for women and has renewed hopes for greater gender parity. She recently said: “I intend to establish a new model of government as a female Mayor. I am aware that I am not the only one promoting these values based on listening, dialogue, support, partnership and mutual benefits… We, women, are more visible because we are in small numbers and this situation makes us responsible towards voters. It imposes vigilance, listening, and empathy. We are in charge of the gender dimension of governance. A challenge that we intend to meet brilliantly.”

Objectives

Gender equality is not just a women issue. It concerns society as a whole. The promotion of economic and social empowerment of women is essential to achieve sustainable development. Empowered women contribute to the health and productivity of whole families and communities and to improved prospects for the next generation. When women are empowered as political leaders, countries often experience higher standards of living and positive developments in education, infrastructure, and health. Expanding political participation to include women can improve the functioning of governments, legislatures, and political parties, and can help government provide more tangible benefits for citizens. Although gender equality may not be confidently considered as a causal factor driving economic development, there is a persistent cross-country positive relationship between the gender gap index (GGI) and the human development index (HDI). Similarly, we observe persistent negative relationship between the GGI and the total fertility rate (TFR).

What makes this initiative ingenious?

Femmedina project aims to increase girls’ and women’s engagement in urban development and governance worldwide. In fact, by mainstreaming gender through all local projects and global programs and engaging in women-focused city development activities, Tunis city supports women’s access to city resources, increases the commitment of local decision-makers and key stakeholders in creating public spaces which are more inclusive for women and girls and fosters gender-awareness and competence in the political arena and planning practice. It will make the public space more resilient and inclusive, as it is stated in SDG 11.

The project fosters social cohesion and community resilience in disadvantaged communities. It partners with young people and local stakeholders to identify community-level challenges, including drivers of violent extremism, and develop community-driven actions to address them; provides resources to youth and community stakeholders to implement concrete activities to mitigate identified local challenges; and builds the capacity of local civil society organizations to collaborate with youth and community stakeholders so that they can continue to identify and address local challenges.

graphic graphic

Link to SDGs

Femmedina project aims to increase girls’ and women’s engagement in urban development and governance worldwide. In fact, by mainstreaming gender through all local projects and global programs and engaging in women-focused city development activities, Tunis city supports women’s access to city resources, increases the commitment of local decision-makers and key stakeholders in creating public spaces which are more inclusive for women and girls and fosters gender-awareness and competence in the political arena and planning practice. It will make the public space more resilient and inclusive, as it is stated in SDG 11.

The project fosters social cohesion and community resilience in disadvantaged communities. It partners with young people and local stakeholders to identify community-level challenges, including drivers of violent extremism, and develop community-driven actions to address them; provides resources to youth and community stakeholders to implement concrete activities to mitigate identified local challenges; and builds the capacity of local civil society organizations to collaborate with youth and community stakeholders so that they can continue to identify and address local challenges.

In this context, the project is articulated in three major and interlinked components:

  1. A participatory assessment of the economic, politic-institutional and civic-cultural aspects of women’s participation in the Medina of Tunis and the definition of policy and planning recommendations;
  2. The creation of a women-led public space project in the Medina;
  3. A city-to-city exchange to share the approach and result of the Tunis activities with other Tunisian cities.

The three components are strictly intertwined moving from leadership to planning, and down to demonstration projects in a continuum that links upstream technical assistance to physical interventions.

Key Results/ Achievements

The project is based on a participatory process: The process enabled representatives from local institutions and organizations (e.g technical teams from the municipality, business representatives and professional networks, NGOs, advocacy groups’ representatives, women’s associations and groups) to collectively assess the level of engagement of women in the Medina on four main levels, economic, political-institutional, social and spatial. It has included:

  • Data checklist for desk review prior to the process. A National Data Sheet has been completed , made available and incorporated into the workshops, as a trigger point for discussion. City-Data including quantitative and qualitative information have been included where available, either before or during the Workshop, depending on availability of local data.
  • Stakeholder mapping and engagement: A process of identification of key stakeholders and organization of dialogues with local policy makers to see how they perceive women engagement, collect data and discuss current policies in place has been completed.
  • Potential locations suitable for interventions and transformation have been identified, through cartography, the early involvement of local stakeholders and in close dialogue with the Municipality. The mapping focused on open spaces used by local women for social gatherings, daily activities (e.g. children playgrounds, shopping, outdoor cooking, religious ceremonies and meeting points) and economic activities (shops, craftsmanship, art) or with future potential to be transformed in a safe and open public space for women and people with disabilities (e.g. proximity to a school, a local market or a densely populated area).
  • Individual survey: Participants were asked to answer questions individually, based on their individual perceptions and knowledge, prior to the workshop. The results were compared with the results of the whole process to underline and discuss disagreement or convergence in the scoring.
  • Collaborative assessment workshops have been organized over two days in Tunis, applying the Women Engagement City (WEC) Profile, as a way of developing a comprehensive and interpretative description of the gender responsiveness of the Medina. The WEC Profile used a systematic series of qualitative questions organized around a four-domain model. By answering these questions, it is intended that a simple figurative representation can be developed in a short time and with limited resources. The workshops gathered up representatives from local women organizations and groups, NGOs focusing on women rights, business associations, Municipality, local universities, religious groups and women-right associations and was the occasion for the first time to discuss important issues related to safety security, inclusion as well as economic and social challenges for the women in the medina.

This phase permitted policy recommendations and planning proposals for an area of the Medina of Tunis with a focus on women’s ideas, capabilities and needs.

  • Concrete projects for women, suggested by women and supported by women aiming for sustainable local development have been identified and will be implemented in the coming months.

Additional Info: Sustainability, Transferability and Upscaling

The successful implementation of the action in the long-term rely substantially on the women-led public spaces pilot project is being replicated at another scale and informing future interventions in Tunis and other Tunisian cities. The purpose of this component is threefold. The project allowed also to ensure that the leadership of the Mayor of Tunis and her commitment to creating a gender-inclusive city is visible and supported. Second, to ensure that the results of the programme are compatible for a potential acceleration, application and replication in other cities.

Third, to ensure that the local solutions and learning can contribute to and influence the broader discussion on gender inclusion in cities at the national and global level.

  • A variety of methods and tools have been put in place to deliver this learning component.
  • A series of online and offline learning events are scheduled to facilitate the peer-to-peer exchange and networking among Tunisian cities, leading to knowledge products and guidance to support cross-fertilisation and replication.
  • A Sustained strategic communication was programmed to ensure the transparency, visibility, and impact of the action.
  • Communication activities aimed at enhancing the role of the Mayor of Tunis as Gender equality champion, demonstrating the importance of participatory city planning and women-led actions and showing the transformative potential of small-scale pilot interventions in the city. Communications activities included: the mapping of the needs and aspirations of women and communities through video stories shared via social media; the collection of user-gathered data from different social media to identify and communicate project progress and outcomes; the dissemination of learning and results at relevant regional and international fora by involving the Mayor of Tunis and women council representatives.