Ending marginalization: Three rural women at the forefront

Three beneficiaries of the AMAL program in Tunisia
Intithar, Najah and Ahlam have all benefited from the AMAL program and are now standing for the municipal election, hoping to bring positive change to their communities. Photos: OHCHR

In Boucha, one of the villages of Azmour in North East Tunisia, live three women : Ahlam, Najah and Intithar who challenged social norms and marginalization to achieve change by running for municipal elections in 2016.

After participating in activities supported by AMAL, which means hope in Arabic, Ahlam is now aware of her rights and responsibilities as a woman and mother of two. She refuses to be restricted to only being a housewife. "My decision to run for the municipal council is an honest desire to work for Boucha so that I can provide better conditions for children, and ensure they have access to services which my generation was deprived of when we were young. I want children to go to school without having to walk distances under rain on unpaved roads, or having to stay home in winter."

A program for transformative leadership

AMAL program supports women residing in poor and marginalized rural areas. In Tunisia, it is implemented in partnership with the 'Ligue des Electrices Tunisiennes' to support women leaders in political parties and communities. With this support, women realized they were capable of changing their living conditions.

Najah decided to challenge the prevalent mindset that leads to marginalisation of women and restricts their role to the household level. "I had to leave school to work and earn money for my family when my father fell ill. My difficult circumstances did not stop me from being engaged in development associations despite the dominant male mentality, which I intend to change by running for the municipal council. We are fed up with promises of officials that make no change; I am facing all the mentalities rejecting women’s political participation."

Under the program, women received training on planning election campaigns, communicating with voters and dialogue skills. This has enabled Intithar to improve her capacity in motivating women, especially young women, in her region to take action to change their lives. Being a university graduate, she is concerned with the deterioration of education conditions in her village; she had always dreamt of changing this situation by becoming a teacher but wasn’t able to make it a reality. "I will run for the municipal council to enhance the education system and give children better opportunities.”

The above is a short version of a story developed by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights under the partnership with Oxfam on the Time for Women to Lead campaign.