We Tunisian women are proud to come from varied backgrounds. Regardless of our history, we share the same dream. We imagine being treated as the tangible power behind this society, not as objects who only serve to please men.
Let me start by framing the situation for you by giving you some examples of people who you might meet here. And trust me, I am neither exaggerating, nor generalizing. In this society, you will find the girl who rebelled against the rules of her conservative family to live with the one she loves as soon as she reached her 20th birthday. She calls her mother every night to tell her how much she misses her, informing her about the place of their next secret meeting, which cannot last more than two hours, before her father comes home. In this society, you will meet the 16 year-old girl who left her widowed mom grieving and went to the capital city. For only a couple of dinars a day, she will take a spot on the sidewalk of the “Habib Borguiba Avenue” and start begging people for money, promising that she will mention them in her prayers. Her next destination after begging will be heading to her second job in a fancy house where she works under the constant threat of abuse. Then, out of jealousy, as soon as the wife notices that the girl is growing prettier, she will kick her out of the house.
Then we meet the veiled girl who challenged the modern mind-set and chose to cover herself because Allah said so. She took advantage of her right to choose who gets to see the best of her. Her life will seem perfect until people start calling her names, asking her about the “tent” she is putting on her head. They mock her asking how on earth she bears the heat of summer? They ask her when will she join her sisterhood in Syria. Hurt enough by all of the comments, she will end up taking her hijab off, light a cigarette and in doing so please the society that will in turn judge her for her irreverence…
Speaking for myself, I see women of Tunisia as victims of the mentality passed down over many generations suggesting that men are the rescuers of society and, in fact, of the whole world. I will not deny that or over-appreciate women. At the same time, I believe that no one has the right to be dealt with as sex-machines whose main role is to live for the sake of being a dutiful housewife, easily bribed with a golden necklace.
However, and with all of these misconceptions about women’s rights, we should never allow ourselves to remain hidden.
It is important for you to know that passion is indeed the secret behind the success of the exhausted mother, the liable minister, the bold soldier, the restless doctor, the sensitive artist and even the fearless volunteer who is ready to cross seven seas in order to restore faith in humanity. All of these people, whether from Tunisia or not, are driven by passion and the desire to survive and thrive.
I would like to wrap up by quoting Tupac Shakur, “Since we all came from a woman, got our name from a woman and our game from a woman, I wonder why we take from our women. Why we rape our women? Do we hate our women? I think it’s time to kill for our women, time to heal our women, be real to our women. And if we don’t we’ll have a race of babies that will hate the ladies that make the babies. And since a man can’t make one, he has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one. So will the real men get up? I know you’re fed up ladies, but keep your head up.”
From Tunisia, with Love.