TUNISIA: WOMEN IN A TRANSITIONING WORLD
Despite Tunisia's catalytic role in the Arab Spring and its regional distinction as a leader in protecting and promoting women's rights, women continue to be under-representaed in the political sphere, particularly in the interior area of the country. With an upswing in social conservatism, many Tunisians fear that the erosion of women's rights is a sign that the political transition is going in a negative direction.
In order to counter this trend, OTI partnered with two women's associations in the Kasserine governorate to commemorate International Women's Day and highlight the important role that women have to play in society. Over 100 women of various ages and ideologies convened to hear well-known Tunisian activist Ms. Sihem Ben Sedrine speak, and to discuss issues important to them as they relate to the ongoing constitutional drafting process within the National Constituent Assembly. The forum sparked lively discussions that increased solidarity and improved networks among participants, which will help women engage in the broader political arena.
"I saw a very high level of consciousness [among the participants]," Sedrine said after the forum. "We need this kind of discussion. The biggest challenge facing us is how to engage women in the democratic transition. This forum gave us the opportunity to have a voice, and the disucssion was free and the ideas were great. This is very positive."
The forum is just one example of many activities OTI has supported in Tunisia to increase political participation of marginalized gorups, including women, and to assist Tunisians pursuing the democratic development of institutions and society. This project demonstrates a key lesson learned from OTI's two decades of transition programming: even modest amounts of strategically placed resources can make a difference. In a short period of time, a critical mass of targeted, small grants can help, if not solidify, a democratic transition.