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On August 13, 1956, the kingdom of Tunisia signed the decree of the personal code of status, officially marking August 13 as the National Day of Women in Tunisia. During the last 58 years, Tunisian women have enjoyed rights more progressive than many, if not all, of their neighboring countries. After the Arab Spring in 2011, which began in Tunisia and was led in large part by women, their rights were up for debate. The world watched as Tunisia’s newly implemented democratic state shifted towards a decidedly stricter adherence to traditional, Islamic law.
As one of our Women’s Initiative Fellows notes, “Tunisia is poised delicately in a position of uncertainty in the wake of the uprisings [of 2011] and is now heading into uncharted waters of democratization and pluralism.” Women in Tunisia have not sat idly by during this time of uncertainty but have taken an active role in ensuring that their voices were heard and their rights protected during the creation of the National Constitution. Their efforts paid off. The constitution passed on January 26, 2014 and was celebrated as progressive towards women’s rights by most.
Among the leading female voices in Tunisia come 17 strong, independent women who comprise the third class of the 2014 Women’s Initiative Fellowship. The class includes Tunisian women from varying backgrounds including lawyers, psychologist, teachers, small business owners, journalists and political activists. These women are passionate about their rights as women and work tirelessly in their individual fields to ensure that the Tunisian women of tomorrow continue to enjoy the rights that women have enjoyed for the last 58 years. As one of our Fellows states, “My goal is that the Tunisian woman of the next 20 years should have more rights and leadership responsibilities than the Tunisian woman of 20 years ago.”
We believe that these Fellows can not only pave the way for the change they desire in their country, but hold great positions of the power along the way.
Article 46 of the new constitution reads, “The state shall guarantee equal opportunities for men and women in the exercise of different responsibilities in all sectors. In particular, the state shall strive to achieve parity of men and women in all elected assemblies”. We fully expect to see one of our Fellows serving as President in the next 10 years under the protection of Article 46.
We are proud of the work our fellows are accomplishing and celebrate them on Tunisia’s National Day of Women.
Betsy Martin, Regional Development Director, joined the George W. Bush Presidential Center in 2013. A member of the development team, she is responsible for building relationships with corporations, foundations, and other non-profit organizations. She works closely with Bush Institute program directors to obtain support for projects in education reform, economic growth, human freedom, global health, women's empowerment, and aid to U.S. military veterans.
Most recently, Martin served as Deputy Director of the Women's Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute. In this role, she was responsible for setting and implementing the vision of the Women's Initiative which seeks to empower women worldwide to lead in their communities and countries. During her tenure, Martin directed a year-long leadership program for rising women leaders in the Middle East and North Africa and highlighted stories of hope in Afghanistan through the publishing and promotion of We Are Afghan Women: Voices of Hope.
Prior to joining the Bush Center, Martin served as a Senior Event Coordinator for the Washington Speakers Bureau where she managed speaking engagements and advance for Mrs. Laura Bush, Jenna Bush Hager, Barbara Bush, and Governor Jeb Bush. Martin served in the Bush Administration as Scheduler and Trip Coordinator to Mrs. Laura Bush.
A native of Mississippi, Martin graduated from Samford University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies. She serves on the Advisory Board for the Akola Project.
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