Women’s rights activists from the Arab region will meet this weekend, Friday 10 to Sunday 12 October, at the Hotel Majestic in Tunis for a conference addressing women’s equality, involvement, and participation in political processes. Women’s organizations from Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen are expected to participate. Notable attendees include Egyptian cyber-activist Nihal Saad Zaghloul and Najoua Makhlouf of the Tunisian General Workers Union (French: UGTT) National Commission for Women.
A press released published by the event’s organizers explains, “In the Middle East and Northern Africa, political decision making is a man’s world by tradition; women in the region remain underrepresented in politics, holding for example on average only 7 percent of seats in parliaments. The absence or under-representation of women in decision-making and agenda-setting spheres means their rights, needs and interests tend to be neglected.”
Women in the Arab region are currently heavily underrepresented in the political arena and face significant disparity regarding many rights and freedoms. Tunisia, which has made promises to boost female involvement in its fledgling democracy, currently has the highest proportion of women represented in government in the Arab world–women hold roughly 30% of the seats in Tunisia’s parliament, the National Constituent Assembly (NCA).
Despite this positive statistic relative to its neighboring countries, Tunisia has yet to approach horizontal gender parity as opposed to vertical parity–while Article 23 of Tunisian electoral law mandates 50% of female representation in party candidate lists, it only mandates 30% of women be heads of those lists. The current candidacy breakdown represents this almost exactly.
This weekend’s conference is organized in partnership with Women on the Frontline, a program created by Hivos, Oxfam, and PwC. The aim of Women on the Frontline is to enable women to rightfully demand gender equality and inclusion in all ongoing political processes.