Tunisian women struggle to reach senior public roles


TUNIS: Tunisia’s minister for women said on Friday more needs to be done to promote female civil servants to top jobs after a study showed that few reach the most senior positions.

Just 37 percent of Tunisia’s 630,000 civil servants are women, said Khaoula Labidi, who coordinated the study, a joint French-funded project by the country’s presidency and UN Women.

She said that was “very high compared to other countries in North Africa and the Middle East,” but added that men hold three quarters of prestigious, better-paid “director general” positions.
Labidi said women who reached medium-level positions faced a “glass ceiling” preventing them from advancing further.

“We want to pierce this glass ceiling to allow competent women — and there are many — to access these high-level positions,” she said.

Women’s Minister Naziha Labidi acknowledged the need “to do everything so these women can reach decision-making positions,” adding that a strategy had been developed to put women on a par with men in such roles by 2020.

Tunisia is seen as a pioneer in the Arab world in terms of women’s rights, adopting a penal code in 1956, which granted rights to women and abolished polygamy.

This summer, the Parliament also passed a law designed to “end all violence against women,” strengthening protection and help for victims, in a move welcomed by rights groups.

It will provide for judicial and psychological assistance for victims of domestic violence and removes a controversial article that allows men to escape punishment for rape if they marry their victim.

Tunisian society remains deeply divided between conservatives and social liberals.

Rights groups say women are still discriminated against, and around half say they have been subject to at least one form of violence in their lives.

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