In her first official visit to Tunisia, Michelle Bachelet, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, will draw attention to the critical role Tunisian women have played in the movement for democracy, and the need to make gender equality and women’s empowerment a cornerstone of the ongoing reform process.
In her three day visit, Ms. Bachelet will call for greater political participation of women including in the upcoming October elections and in the constitution-building processes, emphasizing that gender equality is a pre-requisite in advancing democracy and economic development.
“From Tunisia and Egypt to Syria, Yemen, Libya and Bahrain, women have been active participants, calling for democracy, dignity and equality. In Tunisia, the process has reached that moment where calls for equal rights and justice must become policy and practice,” Ms. Bachelet said.
Tunisia’s historic adoption of the new electoral code which ensures gender parity at the nominations level and lays the groundwork for equal political representation for women and men on the ballot, has set a leading example for the world. However, significant work lies ahead to strengthen women’s engagement in leadership and decision-making across the country, including in far-flung interior regions.
Against this backdrop Ms. Bachelet will provide the opening remarks at an international conference “Women and Democratic Transitions in Arab Countries”. The meeting provides a national platform for consultations on best strategies for advancing women’s rights in democratic processes, and will be attended by women’s groups and civil society actors from all Arab countries. Earlier this month at a similar international meeting in Egypt, Ms. Bachelet met with Egyptian women leaders, and advocated for women’s equal voice and participation in the transition process.
Meetings with several Tunisian leaders, including the President of The Republic Foued Mebazza, Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi, Foreign Minister Mohamed Mouldi Kefi, Minister of Women Affairs Lilia Laabidi, President of the Independent Election Commission M. Kamel Jendoubi, President of the Commission of Investigation on Human Rights Abuses M. Taoufik Bouderbala, and members of the Commission for the Protection of the Goals of the Revolution are scheduled during the visit. In addition to gender equality in the reform process, Ms. Bachelet will also focus on women’s economic empowerment and access to employment, and the protection of women and girls, particularly in the Tunisia-Libya border region.
UN Women, the youngest UN organization, became operational on 1 January 2011, and is charged with advancing gender equality. It merges four previously distinct parts of the UN system, which focused exclusively on gender equality and women’s empowerment.