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Defending the rights of people living with disabilities and women working in the agricultural sector in Tunisia

Since 2018, young Tunisians from Equitas’ Rawabet program have carried out a number of initiatives. In collaboration with our partner in Tunisia, the Centre Tunisien-Méditerranéen (TU-MED), and thanks to the financial support of Global Affairs Canada, several community action projects have been carried out in support of the rights of women working in the agricultural sector in Siliana to have access to social security coverage and for the right of access to employment for people with living with disabilities in Ben Arous.  

Following up on these projects, a forum was held on key issues. Due to the pandemic, the forum was held virtually over the course of three sessions. The larger theme of the promotion of human rights encompassed focused discussions with civil society representatives on topics such as: the rights of women working in the agricultural sector, the rights of people living with disabilities in the workplace and rights of access to technology.  

The objective of the forum was to encourage decision-makers to play a more active role in promoting respect for human rights and to strengthen the human rights movement in the country.  By capitalizing on the experiences of the community actions in Siliana and Tunis implemented in the framework of Rawabet, the forum was intended as an opportunity to:  

  • Stimulate discussions that puts rights holders and their reality at the forefront. 
  • Develop recommendations.  
  • Secure commitments from authorities regarding measures to be taken to implement the recommendations developed.   
  •  Obtain commitments from the authorities regarding the follow-up needed to ensure the promotion of the rights discussed during each session of the forum.    

Session 1: Women’s socio-economic rights 

The national forum began with a first online session on the socio-economic rights of women working in the agricultural sector, focusing on their rights of access to social security coverage. Led by Odivatouhouna, (meaning their cause in Arabic), the forum brought together civil society actors and decision-makers with the aim of strengthening women’s socio-economic rights by obtaining commitments from the authorities to adopt recommendations that would guarantee access to social safety nets for women working in agriculture. This objective was largely achieved – MP Leila Haddad said that the proposed interventions and recommendations will enrich the content of the draft law on access to social security coverage for women in the agricultural sector on which she works. In addition, she committed to continue this project in collaboration with TU-MED.   

Session #2: Disability and Work  

The second session focused on the right to work of people living with disabilities. On December 3rd, 2020, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, actors from civil society and from the community of people living with disabilities gathered for the second session of the national forum to obtain support and secure concrete commitments from decision-makers towards the adoption of initiatives that support the right to work of people living with disabilities. Attended by nearly 100 participants, including representatives from the Ministries of Public Service and Youth and Sports, as well as representatives from the National Agency for Employment and Self-Employment, the forum discussed key issues related to people living with disabilities and recommendations to ensure greater respect for rights. Many of these recommendations focused on harmonizing practices with existing legislative and policy protections for people with disabilities in Tunisia, including compliance with the quotas set by the Ministry of Public Service. These measures are crucial to building an equitable society that respects human rights – as Nadjet Bouda of Equitas stated,

“Sustainable development cannot be achieved without a strong commitment to upholding the rights of people with disabilities. This is why Equitas always seeks to integrate this issue into its programs.”

Session #3: Technology and Human Rights   

As a program aimed at involving youth, women and people living with disabilities, as well as creating change through the power of technology, the last session of the Tunisian national forum was particularly aligned with Rawabet’s mission. Bringing together decision-makers, representatives from key ministries, relevant public institutions, and civil society actors, this session succeeded in conveying the message that technology is an asset in the promotion of human rights. Participating organizations have already made impressive progress in this regard through achievements such as the creation of mobile applications to combat gender-based violence, the creation of sound magazines on YouTube, the creation of online petitions and campaigns related to human rights issues, and many other inspiring achievements.  

A further step for the respect of human rights in Tunisia  

This national forum provided a platform to create a constructive dialogue between civil society actors and decision-makers, urging them to take action for the protection of human rights. Rawabet was cited several times during the forum as a powerful catalyst for mobilizing actors around the issues at stake. One of the many impressive achievements of Rawabet cited during the forum was the mobilization of youth who participated in the Rawabet initiative to have the President’s COVID press announcements translated into sign language in order to make these announcements accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing. 

Through human rights education, Rawabet engaged stakeholders and decision-makers to highlight key issues and strengthen a movement to promote human rights.   

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