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  • Writer's pictureBahais Tunisie

La communauté Baha'ie Tunisienne à l'honneur à l'ONU

Dr. Mohamed Ben Moussa

Representative of the Baha'i Community of Tunisia



I would like at the beginning to thank the organizers for this opportunity

It’s really my pleasure to share with you some thoughts and especially some questions to interact on together.


The title of my paper is


Institutions as a catalyst or an obstacle for gender equality


we will see along this presentation that the institutions can play the both roles, as a catalyst or/and as an obstacle


This paper aims to reflect on two questions :

The first is How, historically, relationships between individuals and institutions had been built, sometimes to ensure gender equality and to empower all women and girls, and sometimes as an obstacle to this emancipation?

And the second question, how can-we create a prospective vision to strengthen relationships between institutions and individuals to allow larger participation especially for women?


In this regard, looking back over the history of mankind, and in particular the evolution of the concept of citizenship, it is clear that citizenship was not granted on an equal footing to all, and in particular not, alas, to women.

In Plato's Respublica, for example, women were not granted the right of citizenship. Indeed, the governing institutions of the time did not grant women the right to contribute to civic decision-making, or even to the social or economic prosperity of the city.


In this respect, the example of the path taken by Tunisian institutions, in terms of reform establishing equality between men and women, would be interesting to consider. Indeed, on the eve of Tunisia's independence, in 1929, a reform-minded Sheikh named Tahar El-Haddad ventured to write a book on the status of women entitled "Our Woman in Sharia and Society". The institutions of the time opposed his thoughts and outright condemned the author to excommunication. At that epoch, unfortunately, demands for freedom, justice, equality and prosperity for women, and for the right to social contribution and decision-making, were not viewed favorably by either the community or the institutions. At this epoch, in general, Tunisian women were relegated to domestic roles and had no access to the political or public sphere.


Clearly, this marked a cleavage in the interactions between the individual, particularly women, institutions and the community. Cleavages that were constantly marked by pitfalls. Women aspired to freedom, prosperity and public contribution, while institutions sought submission and the community claimed authority over her.


In 1956, great steps were accomplished. Institutional reforms were introduced in Tunisia, definitively abolishing polygamy, providing access to education for all girls and stipulating full gender equality.


But unfortunately, for a long time, power, paternalism, and misogyny were governing the society. The challenges facing humanity today increasingly demand the talents and capacities of all people, regardless of gender. That's why there's no need to establish competition, rivality and antagonism between men and women. A new social environment is needed.


How can we learn about this social transformation ?

How to overcome those cultural and structural obstacles establishing an environment for more equality between men and women ?


In Tunisia, at the level of the grassroots, the Baha'i Community, with their like minded friends, is trying to learn about the concept of soacial participation, especially for women, by creating more spaces for consultation and decision making.


For example, a series of training courses designed to build capacity at the neighborhood level for service to the common good. This project tries to understand the process of the transformation at the individual level and the creation of the structures of a new society where women are given a large space for the decision-making.


Central to this process is the conviction that the human being cannot be reduced to the mere product of interactions with nature and society. Rather, it sees the necessity of change in all structures—mental, cultural, scientific and technological, educational, economic and social—including a complete change in the very concepts of political leadership and power.


What efforts such as these are showing is that fostering gender equality is not just a "feminist" issue, but a societal one. It is, therefore, urgent to gain more support from men for the cause of full equality.


Finally, let me conclude this intervention with this quote from my faith tradition :


“The world of humanity is possessed of two wings: the male and the female. So long as these two wings are not equivalent in strength, the bird will not fly.”

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