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Tunis conference pushes for women's rights in Arab world

By Monia Ghanmi for Magharebia in Tunis — 29/04/10

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The Arab world must empower women by eliminating discrimination, reviewing laws and using gender as a criterion in assessing plans and processes, said participants in a conference held April 25th-26th in Tunis.

The Tunis conference followed the 54th session of the United Nations' Commission on Women's Condition, held in New York last month. It also served as a 15-year review of progress, success and failures since the issue of women's rights was addressed in the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

By supporting each other in the struggle for their freedoms and rights, women will be able to participate effectively in public life, said presenters at the "Beijing + 15 and Beyond" conference on the status of women around the world.

"In most Arab countries, women suffer from exclusion and political marginalisation," said Naziha Zarouk, who is in charge of women's affairs at the ruling Democratic Constitutional Rally (RCD) party. "Arab countries face many challenges to women's participation in the political process … these societies still belittle women, and are attached to the patriarchal values for traditional and cultural reasons".

The RCD leader called for creating a "cultural and social environment" that would help guarantee "equality and equal opportunities for men and women".

Representatives from Tunisia, Palestine, Egypt and Syria participated in the conference.

Participants recommended creating a database on women's skills and a commission tasked with conducting strategic studies on Arab women's economic empowerment and strengthening their access to information technology.

Other recommendations to emerge from the conference included a call to boost rural women's skills and to create bodies for listening to, orienting and guiding women, especially in urban areas, TAP reported.

"The insignificant participation of women in politics is caused by legislative constraints in some Arab countries, and the existence of gaps between legislation and practice," said the secretary-general of the Arab Family Organisation, Houda Ben Youssef.

"In addition, women are victims of a stereotype of inferiority promoted by the media" which sees them as the first target for publicity and marketing, added Ben Youssef.

The head of the Tunisian Mothers' Association, Saida Agrebi, told conference participants that "most sociological studies and regional reports show that Arab women are falling behind other women in the world in terms of their rights, freedom and independence."

At the Beijing Conference in 1995, the Arab region was ranked last in terms of improving the status of women, she said.

Tunis has hosted previous events aimed at promoting women's rights, including a workshop last year on the topic of stopping violence against women.

However, according to Agrebi, the picture is not all that bleak. Their status has "improved due to the many reforms and changes that have evolved in the meetings of Arab leaders who've insisted on many occasions on the need for women's rights legislation," she said.

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  1. Anonymous thumb

    علاء 2011-3-10

    Where is Agrebi now? She should be tried like all other corrupt robbers! Agrebi should be an example to anyone who doesn't want to learn. To you and those with you, is glory eternal? Are hustle and bustle, lies and hypocrisy eternal? You have lost this life and the hereafter.


  2. Anonymous thumb

    ت 2011-2-27

    Today we need awareness and confidence more than before. Our future is unknown. Our affairs are unclear. We no longer distinguish between the friend and the enemy. We are living in a period of doubt. Therefore, we have to think deeply before taking a step. We claim our rights and impose our grievances. But we have to think about the future of our country which is dearer than our personal narrow interests. This is a call to all Tunisians both the people and politicians.


  3. Anonymous thumb

    بئر مشارقة تونس 2011-2-19

    We thank God for waking up from our sleep, uncovering the manipulations of our politicians and how they were following a gang of corrupt people from both sexes. You read on the faces of most of them evil but you couldn’t express your opinion. Today, we need audacity, express opinion freely and democratically although we are fed up with this word. We claim our rights in all fields especially the right for free, independent and mindful election.


  4. Anonymous thumb

    Indira 2010-7-8

    I adore Tunisian hypocrisy. Women’s rights!? A husband just has to accuse his wife of adultery to get her thrown in prison. It does not work the same way in the opposite direction. Moreover, if the husband really did have an affair, his mistress will really go to prison for a year. Stop your studidity.


  5. Anonymous thumb

    BEN 2010-5-6

    In Tunisia, the great people who are quite in view of the regime and who are preoccupied with their ascension to power and, more simply, just their power, have developed the marvellous cult of flattery. One day, due to lack of conjugal performance, they decided to grant their wives (notice the plural “wives”) independence in a very rare form of freedom. This is a clue that explains why Mr Ben Ali is not a ‘dictator’ in the apolitical sense of the term, but a King who has breathed the era of Versailles-like life into his courtiers and courtesans. Saint-Cyr left its mark.


  6. Anonymous thumb

    Anonymous 2010-5-5

    I support 100% the patriot Najla and her assessment of the informer Saida Agrebi, who is also known for the perverse nature of her morals. Ben Ali is using her just like Bourguiba did – in order to spy. As a reward, he granted her a position likely to satisfy her perversions. As president of the Association of Tunisian Mothers, she has a good alibi to approach mothers’ daughters.


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    Anonymous 2010-5-3

    “…[W]omen are victims of a stereotype of inferiority promoted by the media…” Thus spoke Houda Ben Youssef, secretary-general of the Arab Family Organisation. What an outrageous statement. Where in the Arab world did she see free media capable of influencing public opinion? Would it be in Tunisia, by chance, where the recidivist president has once again been nominated one of the worst predators of the freedom of the press for 2010? The organisation Reporters Without Borders has tallied up 40 of his kind. The Tunisian president finds himself in the company of colleagues such as Kim Jong-Il of North Korea, Kadhafi of Libya, Ahmadinejad of Iran and Kadyrov of Chechnya. He also borders on Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban. He is found on the same list as leaders of criminal organisations involved drug trafficking and dangerous paramilitary organisations like Columbia’s FARC. This entire lot is violent, dangerous and above the law, but their senior is most likely Ben Ali, because in other places like Somalia and Nigeria, the predators have disappeared from the list. Even in Iraq, in spite of its daily violence, it seems that the situation for journalists is improving little by little. Meanwhile, in Tunisia, the infernal machinations of Ben Ali continue to chew up the journalists. The worst of it is the dictator’s cynicism and his contempt for the people. Today, 3 May, World Press Freedom Day, his newspaper "La Presse" dared to publish declarations that credited him with “guaranteeing the principles of freedom and democracy. In Tunisia, there are no taboos and no prohibitions. The Tunisian media can address all cases and all issues without any form of censorship.” It is a shame that the Presidential Palace does not publish health reports.


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    Anonymous 2010-5-3

    The aim of the conference had nothing to do with advancing women’s rights, but everything to do with advancing the opportunist Laila Ben Ali, before whom the ministers lay prone because she is the wife of you know whom. This custom is unique to dictatorships. Wassila, the wife of Bourguiba, made Tunisia shake. The wives of the dictator Perón also straddled the Argentinians. The list is long and includes the wife of Philippine dictator Marcos, the wife of Sadat, the wife of Moubarak and so on. The list is long. The above article does not mention, most notably, that Laila Ben Ali kidnapped Tunisia’s women’s organisation and engaged them in a race against Aicha, the daughter of Kadhafi, and the wives of other Arab dictators in order to take over the Arab Women Organisation. Her name was not cited, but her portrait is subtly and innocently visible in the photo to the left, as is Big Brother’s in the middle of the picture. He is watching you. Tunisia’s censors have learned tact. Their intelligent approach reinforces the cult of the Ben Ali couple for Magharebia’s readers. Touché.


  9. Anonymous thumb

    samira ben abdallah ben jamaa 2010-5-2

    I agree with Miss Agrebi’s comments. We must develop parity in its true meaning in our marriages, our holidays, our meals, our cemeteries, our responsibility to listen to our children beside their beds before they sleep, our parent-teacher conferences and at doctor visits. Parity means having no difference between us, even if it is now terribly different.


  10. Anonymous thumb

    la patriote najla 2010-4-30

    To Magharebia, Mrs Agrebi is the symbol of dictatorship in Tunisia and beating below the belt. You've fallen into the trap of the crude propaganda of this snake that pretends to defend human causes!


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