Tunisia seeks female turnout in elections
By Monia Ghanmi for Magharebia in Tunis – 20/10/11
On the eve of Tunisia's historic elections, the interim government waged a muscular campaign to mobilise women to head to the polls.
The "I need to go" initiative, which wrapped up on Thursday (October 20th), aimed to boost women's presence in the electoral scene and expand grassroots participation. The promotion video features four women: a professor, a seamstress, a student and an agricultural worker.
"I have a rendezvous with freedom, with democracy, with dignity, with citizenship, with equality," the video said. "Voting is the right and the responsibility of every Tunisian woman."
The goal is to encourage women to partake in political life and assert their presence in the Constituent Assembly, Minister of Women's Affairs Lilia Labidi said at a conference in late September.
The twenty-day campaign came as a result of the modest turnout and weak presence of women in the country's post-revolutionary political scene. Though the High Commission for the Realisation of Revolutionary Goals established the principle of gender parity in electoral lists and reserved a quarter of the Constituent Assembly seats to women, their numbers remain sparse at the head of the electoral lists.
Only 13 per cent of women have registered for the vote, the Independent High Electoral Commission (ISIE) announced in August.
Tunisian women everywhere need to "exercise their electoral duty and seize their position in political life without gifts from anyone and without auctioning off their rights and gains", Minister of Regional Development Abderrazak Zouari said on the day of the campaign launch.
"The most important thing in this campaign is the message advocating the necessity that women go to the polls to vote," he said.
The campaign to lure women into political life cost more than 132 thousand dinars and encompassed all regions of the country, especially remote areas. A number of young people were recruited to provide information about the electoral process and explain the role women can play in shaping the country's political future.
The media launched promotion and awareness ads, calling upon women to exercise their electoral duty. Flyers with the campaign logo and pictures of women from various social strata were distributed in different institutions and public spaces where women gather.
The campaign revealed lack of knowledge among many women about the details of the voting process, the candidates and parties, as well as their role in the electoral process.
"Among a significant proportion of the women we talked to, there is inadequate familiarity about everything related to election day, and there is a kind of reluctance among many of them because of their busy daily schedule," campaign participant Ramzi Ben Hamani said.
Women's groups joined the call for action. Association "Women Leaders" launched an initiative to urge housewives to cast ballots. Sana Ghnimi, head of the organisation, said that her group hoped to ensure the participation of fifty per cent of women in the electoral process.
The efforts have found receptive grounds among Tunisian women.
"Women today are half of society and must be known as active in the next phase in propelling and determining the fate of the country through candidacy and voting," Naima Ghazali told Magharebia. "The democratic system can only be achieved when women join the electoral process."
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