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.