Every time I attend what seems to be a sophisticated intellectual social event and mention unresolved women issues and the need for a feminist revolution in Tunisia, it backfires on me with what I view as inconsiderate prejudices. Some educated members of civil society think that what Tunisian women have accomplished today is more than enough and that demanding any more rights might lead to turning women into better citizens than men. If this is the case with educated individuals, imagine how it is with those in remote and marginalized areas.
These individuals focus on a few legislative amendments and turn a blind eye to the terrifying statistics proving that women are still abused at all levels. No one can deny the achievements that have been made. Still, the gender gap persists. It is not only a matter of amending laws protecting women’s rights. It is also about revolutionizing the mindset of Tunisian society.
Some of the most recent statistics concerning the theme of violence against women date back to 2010. The National Survey on Violence Against Women in Tunisia (ENVEFT) revealed that 47.6% of women aged between 18 and 64 years reported having experienced at least one type of violence during their lifetime. Rates were highest among illiterate women and kept decreasing as education level moved from primary school to university. Rates were also highest among women living in rural areas compared to those living in the urban areas.
The study further revealed the following:
● 42.1% have never spoken out about violence before.
● 55% of the victims accepted violence because of the shame and fear associated with their situation.
● 73% of the victims do not seek help from anyone.
Another report published in 2014 by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) investigated “violence against women in the context of political transformations and economic crisis in the Euro-Mediterranean region”; the report’s calculations indicated an increase in domestic violence against women.
With the rising number of associations and national projects dealing with women’s issues and claiming to be fighting for women’s rights, the statistics published by these surveys can safely be considered as ALARMING!
There must be reasons as to why these rates have increased despite the increasing number of organizations dealing with women’s issues:
● Lack of cooperation and coordination between different stakeholders.
● Some associations are getting loads of funding but are making no real impact: enough with round tables and conferences to which the same people are being invited. Time to get down to business.
● No real youth involvement in the gender equality movement. Most of them are invited to attend events and random training sessions but are rarely included in the decision-making process.
● Feminism 101: Feminist concepts are still not well developed even among those who claim to be feminists. There is no shame in that as long as we are all showing willingness to learn more and evolve. Learning to be a better feminist is a journey and not a one-day trip.
● It is good to make use of the Western feminist experience. However, Tunisian feminism should be personalized to Tunisian culture.
● We still do not have feminist icons with a strong fieldwork experience and academic and intellectual background, who are publishing books and adding references to the feminist bibliography and whose number one cause is defending Tunisian women’s rights.
● The Tunisian gender equality movement is still not popular enough to get women from all walks of life to go to the streets and fight for what they deserve as first-class citizens.
● Women’s rights have not yet reached remote areas of the country. Feminism is still is a thing of the upper-class or among university women who make up a small percentage of Tunisian society.
Calling for gender equality is not about holding slogans. It is a mindset. It constitutes a huge part of one’s culture. It is an everyday struggle.