Feminist foreign policy is an agenda for change. By achieving a more gender-equal world, we also contribute to peace, security and sustainable development. In recent years, Sweden has developed partnerships and dialogues for gender equality with a wide range of countries. This includes Tunisia, which is dedicated to the agenda and has committed to host a follow-up conference to the Stockholm Forum on Gender Equality.
The Stockholm Forum was held in April 2018 and gathered over 700 participants from over 100 countries. The Tunis Forum is planned to be held exactly one year later, in April 2019.
“We warmly welcome that the torch has been passed on and that Tunisia will host the next Forum. It illustrates the important alliances that are being formed for gender equality and mirrors Tunisia’s own commitment to push the envelope,” says Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström.
Many positive events have taken place in Tunisia in recent years.
“Since the revolution in 2011, Tunisia has taken several new steps to promote gender equality and women’s rights. In this way, the link has been re-established to Tunisia’s progressive policies of the early years after independence in 1956, when a number of important reforms were introduced,” says Sweden’s Ambassador to Tunisia, Fredrik Florén.
The new act to combat violence against women, introduced in 2017, has attracted international attention. Sweden supported the work on the new act, including by receiving a delegation to exchange experiences. And in the past year, Tunisian women have gained the legal right to marry foreign men. Previously, this type of marriage was not legally recognised.
Member of Parliament Bochra Belhaj Hmida, winner of the Anna Lindh Prize in 2014, is leading a commission to review legislation from a gender equality and civil law perspective. The commission recently presented a 230-page report that included a number of reforms to strengthen human rights and increase gender equality. The debate on gender-equal inheritance legislation and gender-equal parenting will be followed with great interest in the region.
Sweden is a steadfast partner to Tunisia in the push for gender equality and women’s rights. This support takes many different forms and focuses on different areas – from domestic violence to children’s books.
In 2016, when the Swedish Embassy to Tunis was re-opened, Sweden co-organised a conference with the Tunisian Government on preschools and children’s literature. At the same time, a large donation of some 1 400 books was presented to preschools and leisure centres, including books about Pippi Longstocking, Alfons Åberg, Mamma Mu, Pettson & Findus and others.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström delivered a speech about feminist foreign policy during the actual opening. She then spoke with Minister Neziha Laabidi, responsible for women’s rights and gender equality, in the presence of 200 students from the Carthage Business School IHEC. The artist Loreen performed at the opening reception at the Bardo National Museum and while in Tunis also visited a shelter for women who had been subjected to domestic violence. The shelter is located in the Medina of Tunis and was built with Nordic development assistance.
Six months following the re-opening of the Embassy, the photo exhibition ‘Swedish Dads’ was displayed on the walls of the Embassy. It was inaugurated by Tunisian Minister Neziha Laabidi, who then stated that the Government wants to expand maternity and paternity leave, and also announced a ‘Papas en Tunisie’ (Dads in Tunisia) campaign to highlight Tunisian fathers and their relationships with their children.
And the ‘Papas en Tunisie’ campaign was soon started, together with the Swedish and Finnish embassies and UNICEF. A photo competition in social media reached close to one million Tunisians, and the project also led to a professional photo exhibition, a drawing competition for children and two conferences.