IMEN HAMZA – Tunisia
This story is part of the series We are human rights changemakers to celebrate Equitas’ 50th anniversary (#Equitas50). All through 2017, we invite you to discover stories of 50 inspiring human rights changemakers. These are but a few of the hundreds who have changed lives around the world through human rights education with Equitas’ support.
The status of the Tunisian woman is, for Imen Hamza, unique in the Arab world.
Since 1956, rights relating to divorce, compulsory education and the right to vote have been recognized in Tunisia: important achievements for the population. However, these developments have never been institutionalized and remain fragile and threatened, in particular by the rise of Islamist parties. That is why mobilization for women’s rights remains more important than ever.
A sociologist by training, Imen participated in several research programs of the Association of Tunisian Women for Research in Development (AFTURD) on the economic empowerment of women and violence against women.
She also helped set up various centres of listening, documentation and legal, professional and psychological assistance available to women in marginalized regions of Tunisia and has offered several training courses on equal opportunity, budgetary management, literacy as well as design and project development.
Today, Imen works as a head of project – gender for Enda Inter-Arabe, a non-governmental organization fighting against exclusion and poverty, where she is particularly interested in female entrepreneurship and economic and social empowerment of young people and women. It helps create professional opportunities for women and unemployed youth as well as to provide training and awareness on fundamental rights, especially in rural areas.
Through the many trainings and the projects she has set up, Imen notices great changes in young Tunisian women. “It’s self-assertion, its self-confidence, it’s braving all fear and trying to take one’s place in the family, at the university, in associations. It is freedom of expression, participation, acceptance, respect, integration. Changing yourself and wanting to change the other. To assert oneself in society is to have a role, to be a responsible citizen. And that’s beautiful!”
Following the people’s revolution of 2011 and the departure of president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who had been in power since 1987, the acquired rights of women are more protected. However, a true culture of human rights remains to be established. Discrimination persists in the workplace and in political life, not to mention the strong presence of harassment and sexual violence.
“It is not enough for the state to change the rights or to put in place new rights without doing a great job of raising awareness and changing practices and culture. It must start with the school, the family, in the street.”Civil society engagement is necessary to ensure that legal gains become realities in society and in the daily lives of women.
Despite the magnitude of the work, Imen continues her efforts in education and awareness of women’s rights for the Tunisian population and so contributes to a real change in attitudes, particularly among young people. She, among others, acted as a local coordinator in Equitas’ Mosharka project, which promotes social engagement among young people in the Middle East and North Africa. She describes her collaboration with Equitas as “a love affair” that has continued since she first participated in the Equitas’ International Human Rights Training Program (IHRTP) in Montreal, Canada, in 2008.
The IHRTP, among other things, has equipped Imen to increase awareness among the Tunisian population that human rights necessarily include women’s rights: one doesn’t exist without the other.
“The participatory approach [of the IHRTP] is very important and it changes a lot of things in our work. We must make it clear to others that human rights really are a whole, we cannot choose them. It’s a comprehensive approach.”
IMEN HAMZA – Tunisia
Project Manager Gender, Enda Inter-Arabe
Project Manager, Equitas Mosharka Project, 2012-2016
Equitas’ International Human Rights Training Program (IHRTP) Alumnus, 2008; IHRTP co-facilitator, 2014.
Story prepared by Alex Chartrand, communications intern, Equitas.
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Equitas’ International Human Rights Training Program is undertaken in part with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada.