Press release: Significant progress marking an advance for the human rights of Tunisian women

Date: Thursday, March 28, 2019

The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (UN Women) warmly welcomes the measures announced by the Head of the Government of Tunisia to support the human rights of women. These measures directly concern the social safety net, public transport for agricultural workers, maternity and paternity leave, and the national observatory to combat violence against women.

UN Women's Representative for Tunisia, Ms. Begoña Lasagabaster, stated that “these measures aim to improve and provide both immediate help and sustainable benefits throughout the life of the Tunisian rural woman. These concrete measures represent real progress and an important step towards gender equality and the empowerment of rural women in Tunisia”. Before stating that the achievement of gender equality requires the participation of all actors.

Tunisia currently has a rural population of about 34% of the total population. Rural women currently make up 35% of the total female population,[1] and about 58% of the rural workforce. Agriculture is one of the main sources of employment and income for women with 17% of women employed in the agricultural sector. In fact, rural woman are a vital component of the household economy that contributes to the achievement of food security in Tunisia. It is in this context that the first measure announced by the head of the Government of Tunisia concerns the social safety-net; Youssef Chahed, decided to launch a program to provide rural women with social protection. This program called "Ahmini" should allow to integrate 500 thousand rural women in the social coverage system, thus allowing them to benefit from care and retirement pensions.

The second measure revolves around the mobility of rural women and the authorization of public transports to transfer agricultural workers outside the authorized zones in order to provide the means of transportations that ensure the security, respect, and dignity of women agricultural workers. This measure comes in response to the great difficulty faced by rural women in getting to their workplaces by travelling long distances every day, and the lack of security control on roads in order to prevent anarchic transport, which represent the main reason for the increase in road accidents, whose victims are marginalized rural women.

Another important decision concerns maternity leave. A draft law on maternity leave, which provides for the extension of maternity leave (3 months instead of the current 2 months) and prenatal leave to avoid any impact on pregnancy and the health of the newborn, also provides for paternity leave. This draft law is groundbreaking in Tunisia because it unifies the system of public law and private law but especially aligns the Tunisian legislative framework with international standards such as the ILO Convention No. 183 and Recommendation No. 191 on the protection of maternity.

Finally, a fourth measure on a draft decree establishing the National Observatory to Combat Violence against Women was adopted. This concerns the implementation of Article 40 of the organic law no. 2017-58 of August 11, 2017, related to the elimination of violence against women which provides for the creation of a national observatory to combat violence against women, under the supervision of the Ministry responsible for women’s affairs.

These measures related to the social protection system, public services and sustainable infrastructure are an integral part of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by world leaders.

Press contact:

Faten Bejaoui - UN Women Communication Officer

[1] NATIONAL GENDER REPORT TUNISIA 2015, produced by the National Institute of Statistics (INS) and UN Woman Tunisia

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