Tunisia law to give women equal top billing

Tunisia law to require equality in candidate listing   

Tunisia’s parliament overwhelmingly passed a bill on Wednesday that will greatly help the country to increase female representation across the country at next year’s March 2017 local elections.
The new laws will see parties or blocks put forward an equal number of male and female list leaders, which should step up representation.
While the previous law made moves towards gender parity, critics say that, in practice, the first candidate listed was almost always a man, leading to only 68 out of 217 (31 percent) total seats in Tunisia’s parliament currently being held by women.
The law was supported by 127 MPs, with three against and four abstaining, although not all MPs turned out to vote. The shift, say advocates, marks a leap for Tunisia – which already has one of the highest proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments compared to other countries in the region – and sets the country’s female politicians on a course for even greater influence.
Supporters of the bill stress that it will particularly help female politicians in the country’s interior and southern regions that have been traditionally disconnected from the capital. 
Rym Mahjoub, head of the Afek Tounes centre-right political party’s parliamentary group, told Middle East Eye: ‘Having a democracy without women doesn’t make any sense. This is a great achievement for women’s rights. We have to start with positive discrimination and then move on from there.’
Yusra Ghannouchi, spokesperson for the leading Islamist Ennahda party, said the bill, supported by a majority of the party’s members in parliament, is ‘a further step towards increasing women’s participation in decision making and management of local authorities, and a recognition of all the women who are very active in their local areas’.
Tunisia's constitution, adopted following the overthrow of former preside Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, states that the country must strive to establish total equality between men and women. 
The regional and local elections next March are set to be a massive undertaking for Tunisia’s current unity government and will see the fulfilment of a plan to devolve the concentration of power from Tunis to 350 municipalities across the country.  
In the 2014 parliamentary elections, current president Beji Caid Essebsi’s Nidaa Tounes party won a majority but was hit by a string of resignations a year later, prompting Ennahda to become the leading party although Nidaa Tounes still holds the most ministerial positions.
Unlike national parliamentary elections in 2014, the local elections are expected to focus more on individual needs of districts and individual candidates, rather than centring on party politics.
Souhail Alouini, previously from the leading part Nidaa Tounes and currently MP from the Al- Horra parliamentary block, said that both his current and former party overwhelmingly supported the initiative.
‘The civil rights situation is improving in Tunisia,’ he said. ‘We have a lot of competent women, but because of an obsolete mentality, many of them were excluded from positions of power. Exclusion is never beneficial.’
Mahjoub, of Afek Tounes, said she felt proud of the bill’s successful passage and hoped that it meant that female exclusion would be eradicated.
‘Half of Tunisia’s population is female and academic test scores show that women are doing better than men in higher education,’ she said. ‘Women must continue to work together and advocate for themselves and one day arrive in decision making positions.’
Tunisia’s government is currently ruled by a coalition of four parties, Nidaa Tounes, Ennahda, Free Patriotic Union (UPL), and Afek Tounes.


Tunisia - quotas help overcome barriers

Amel Azzouz talks about the value of quotas to increase female representation drawing on her experience in Tunisia:

Integration of women in all walks of life, including national assemblies and other law-making entities, through quotas is a must to achieving sustainable development of Arab economies, says a woman Arab leader, who was actively involved in drafting Tunisia’s new constitution. Amel Azzouz, Tunisia’s former secretary of state in charge of international cooperation spoke to Peninsula Magazine in Qatar after participating in a conference on ‘Enriching the Middle East’s Economic Future’.
She calls for quotas to achieve better representation for women:
‘Societies cannot progress by keeping half of its population (women) away from mainstream socio-economic and political activities. So women must be integrated in all walks of life, including law making process, through quotas or male-female parity system.’

‘unless women are given a chance, they would never come to the surface because of the socio-cultural and historical accumulations, which can be remedied only through quotas.’
Women are held back by restrictive narratives:

‘We still think and believe that women are not made for big missions. And, unfortunately, women have absorbed these narratives.’

‘There are cultures which have taught women that they are not fit for politics, business and other big tasks. And there are men who still look at women that way. So the legislation and media can play a very big role in overcoming these impediments.’
Tunisian reforms have given women a chance to participate in politics and public life:
Azzouz said under the Tunisian gender-parity ‘revolution’, what women has achieved is more than quota in parliament. The new ruling guarantees Tunisian women a place in the new political landscape. Under new laws, political parties must present equal numbers of male and female candidates in elections.

According to latest World Bank figures, the proportion of seats held by women in the Tunisian Parliament touched 31 percent — higher than many advanced countries, such as the US (19 percent) and the UK (29 percent).

Women in Tunisia, which was the epicentre of the ‘Arab Springs’, feature relatively strongly in public life compared to those in some Muslim countries in the Middle East and North Africa. For example, the representation of women in the national assemblies of some countries, such as Kuwait, Oman, Yemen, Iran and Egypt is less than two percent.


Women MPs in Morocco aim for one-third of seats for women

In Morocco, women aim for at least one-third representation. That would be more than we have in the House of Representatives in Australia and around 5% less than for the Senate. The International Parliamentary Union takes the percentage in the main chamber as indicative of performance on gender representation.


In Morocco, female MPs call for at least one-third seats for women

Women lawmakers from the parties forming the governmental coalition and the opposition met with Interior Minister Mohamed Hassad and Junior Interior Minister Charik Draiss to discuss a better representation of women in the Moroccan House of Representatives for the coming legislative elections to be held next September, local Arabic daily Assabah reported.

The women’s objective is to receive backing from authorities in their quest of one third of the parliament seats; around 132 seats against 66 that they currently occupy.