A Day Without a Woman in Tunisia

Before the Tunisian Revolution, International Women’s Day centered around a major state-sponsored festival in which artists and government officials celebrated the progressive Code of Personal Status (CPS) promulgated in 1957 under President Habib Bourguiba. However, Tunisian women have been facing the most “sophisticated inequalities” since our independence.

According to UNESCO’s report on women in the labour force in 2009, only 38 percent of adult women are employed compared to 51 percent of men and nearly half are subject to various kinds of gender-based violence, including physical, sexual and/or verbal abuse. In this restrictive civic space, I wondered if our policymakers were even aware of these numbers or do they think only of using the progressive gender legislation to portray themselves as pro-western, secular modernists despite the implementation falling short?

An inclusive, authentic discussion on women’s rights has started since 2011, yet our legal system is still rife with gender-based inequalities related to various civil, political and economic rights. Tunisian women lack equal rights in marriage and personal status, are unable to inherit wealth and transmit their nationality as easily as men, and lack adequate protections from sexual violence.

This is why the struggle for our rights continues.

This #ADWAW, I reflect on my work as a member of the Innovation Team at CIVICUS. Our team is based across the globe: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia, and the USA. As a majority female team, women play a key role to ensure programme management, coordination with different partners, and accomplishment of projects goals. Our role is also to represent CIVICUS and show how, as an alliance, we work with and for civil society and to promote citizen participation.

A day without us is a day without responsiveness to shrinking, changing civic space in which our partners face urgent and dangerous challenges. A day without us is missing a discussion, opportunity or innovative idea that can change lives for the better.


Mouna Ben Garga, Tunis.