A video dialogue program for young women in the USA and Muslim countries
February 10th, 2007 at 8:56 pm
Posted by Zia in Sessions

Finally, a couple of summaries from our last two sessions. First, our discussion on January 25th 

Equality in Tunisia and the US. The conversation started with the US participants asking about women’s issues in the Arab world, since they felt our perception probably was not the reality. The Tunisian women pointed out that in Tunisia, they enjoy far more rights than do women in many other other Arab countries: equality is ensured, and practices such as polygamy are not allowed. Several women hold high-level government positions in Tunisia; one of the participants also stated that most men preferred to have a wife who worked so she would be able to contribute to the financial status of the household. The women in the US pointed out that we have equality in the US, however, sometimes it felt more like rights were guaranteed on paper than in practice (see below).  

Rights in practice. In both the conversation on women’s issues and the following one on discrimination, we ended up discussing whether rights on paper (i.e. laws) translated into rights in practice. Women in both Tunisia and the US indicated they were very pleased with the legal rights that they enjoyed as women, but in practice, men and women still had different roles in society. There was debate whether gender roles were related to “nature or nurture”, a term introduced by one of the US participants. Later, the Tunisian participants talked about the younger generation being more open to equal roles, and the older generations being more traditional.   

Careers. Both groups discussed how women in similar jobs to men would often earn less; the participants also talked about the fact that women still remained the primary caretakers of the home and children, regardless of whether they worked. The US participants also mentioned that many women would stop working to raise children, then later would have difficulties re-entering the workforce. The two groups compared which careers remained “male-dominated”. In Tunisia, the participants talked about areas such as engineering and medicine still being mostly male, while in the US participants discussed the fact that most major businesses were still led by men, and that certain military roles tended to be comprised almost exclusively of men.

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