Naima Gharbi is the executive director of the organization Voices of Youth of Krib in Tunisia. Here, she introduces the Women’s Forum for a Culture of Advocacy project:
Municipalities play a large and active role in Tunisian society, with more freedom to manage their own resources. About 40% of municipal councils are made up of women, but we noticed that women’s roles aren’t very effective when it comes to decision-making. That’s how the idea of the Women’s Forum for a Culture of Advocacy came about, so that we could activate women’s roles in the municipal councils in order for women to become active partners in decision-making. We didn’t just approach women on the councils, but also women active in civil society. The Women’s Forum project is targeted at women elected to local councils as well as those working in civil society organizations in the town of , and it seeks to make them more effective partners in decision-making.
She talks about the difficulties they faced in implementing the project:
There are customs and there are traditions: “Are women going to rule over us? How can you take a woman’s word over that of dozens of men? How can she attend meetings where the majority there are men?” Also: “What will the organization be offering in material terms? Will it be undertaking urban projects?” Our work, however, was capacity building. During our first meeting with civil society members, we were asked: “Will you be undertaking urban projects? Will there be parks?” But we’d come to help build capacities, to empower women so that they might be able to propose and pass the projects of their own choosing.
As to the results of implementing the project:
We came out with a beautiful project suggested by the Al-Jeel Association for persons with disabilities. After the 2011 revolution, they wanted to create a park that they would run, a place for rest and also a work opportunity for six people with disabilities. We organized a platform for dialogue between consultants from the municipality and the association so they could propose their project, and the municipality was quite responsive. So the problem was solved, and with our partners we succeeded in building an accessible family park run by people with disabilities. They will become ambassadors for local governance, ambassadors for decentralization. They are the seed we planted in Bou Salem, to build confidence and social balance between the Bou Salem municipality and civil society. This project encouraged them to pursue and engage in municipal work and local governance in general.
On the extent of change to their working methodologies after implementing this joint project:
To be frank this is the first feminist project that Voices of Youth of Krib has taken on. In the past, we worked with youths in general, but this project was more exclusively targeted at women. Also, the most important category of people we work with is that of people with disabilities, since it’s a group of people who have been thoroughly silenced. As an organization we’ve been working since 2013 on involving people with special needs who are just absolutely silenced in the worst way. We work out of the principle of decentralization, and one of our pillars is involving people with disabilities in municipal work.