News / Africa

Women Fight for Equal Role on Tunisia's Future Path

Henry Ridgwell
As the political crisis in Tunisia deepens, opposition groups are continuing to demand fresh elections. As in the revolution two years ago, women are at the vanguard of the activists demanding change.

In a cold gymnasium adorned with Tunisian flags, the national wrestling team trains for its next tournament.  Here, men train alongside women, youth alongside adults.

Marwa Meziane is women's African champion at 48 kilograms, and competed at the London 2012 Olympics.

She says training with the men adds a lot, it is more challenging and more fun.

Tunisia won its first women's medal at the 2012 Olympics.  But conservative Muslims objected to the attire worn by 3,000-meter steeplechase silver-medalist Habiba Ghribi.

In Tunisia, women's sport has found itself drawn into the debate on the future role of women in society.

A draft of the new constitution written last year described women as 'complementary to a man.'  That produced a storm of criticism from women's rights groups, and the clause was dropped.

Activist Ahlem Belhaj is from the Association of Democratic Women.

Belhaj says it's true there have been achievements in certain areas like equal representation, or in the drafting of the constitution, but there have been steps backwards at the level of society, and the fight continues.

The constitution is still being debated in the National Assembly.  Meherzia Labidi is the assembly's vice president and a member of the ruling Ennahda party.  She says the draft text describing the role of women was mistranslated.

"Now we are moving towards an article about women's rights that is more precise, that is clearer, so having more legal impact. And what is important in this article is that it mentions that the state shall commit itself to guarantee women's rights, "Labidi.

At a recent pro-Ennahda rally, this woman explained why she supports the Islamist party.

She says she stands for women who have children, for women who respect their husbands, who respect their work, who respect their lives.

A differing view comes from Emna Menif, president of the social activist group Kolna Tounes. She says Ennahda's influence on the government is putting women's rights at risk.

Menif says political Islamists reject all opposing ideas, and that women in particular are a target for those who are working to spread the doctrine of the Muslim Brotherhood.   She says women are even more marginalized and are more at risk than the rest of the population.

Back at the gymnasium, the wrestling team continues its daily regime.  Hedia Trabelsi is a World Championships bronze medalist at 51kilograms.

She says women have a distinguished place in Tunisian society. They work hard to achieve and to give more back to society.

The women and the men in the national team say they try to ignore the politics and focus on one thing: honoring the Tunisian flag.

You May Like

Video Obama: Action on Climate Change 'Economic, Security Imperative'

President spoke to reporters on sidelines of UN Climate Summit outside Paris, where leaders are working to agree on binding measures

IMF Bets on China’s Resolve to Reform

IMF announcement already raising questions about just how much Beijing is committed to such reforms

What Happened When I Landed in Antarctica

Refael Klein chronicles what it's like to visit one of the coldest, most desolate places on Earth

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs