FRIDAY FILE: To commemorate International Domestic Workers’ Day on June 16 and in parallel to a seminar considering a unified strategy against violence against women in Tunisia, hosted by the Association of Tunisian Women for Research and Development’s in Tunis on June 13, 2014, AWID takes a look at the instruments available and the gaps that still exist in addressing violence against informal women workers in Tunisia.
By Mégane Ghorbani
Article 46 of the new Tunisian constitution states that “The State shall take all necessary measures to eradicate violence against women” . Three months after its enactment, the May 2014 recommendations made in Tunisia by the mechanisms of the United Nations’ human rights system , stipulate that violence cannot be eradicated without reforming legal codes. These recommendations also emphasize the need to strengthen oversight of informal sector work.
Women in the informal sector
The economic crisis has intensified the growth of informal work globally . In Tunisia, informal employment, defined by researcher Nidhal Ben Cheikh as, “unprotected employment or the absence of social protection” , accounts for 54% of jobs. . According to the Tunisian Union of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts (UTICA), the informal sector affects 85% of Tunisian enterprises .
While the population of working age “15 and over” is almost equally male and female , there are gender inequalities in terms of access to employment in the formal sector, notably an unemployment rate in the first quarter of 2014 of 21.5% for women, compared to 12.7% for men . This unequal access to the formal labour market pushes more women into the informal sector. A survey conducted in 2013 on informal workers in Greater Tunis shows that unlike men, all women are aware of their labour situation and some say “informal work is our lot in life” .
In the textile industry, a 2012 research project focused on violations of women workers’ economic and social rights in the coastal region of Monastir . The study shows that 86% of the workforce is female because of the perceived low wages; and it discusses cases of informality in sectors that are ostensibly formal. Twenty six percent of women workers surveyed did not have social protection and 12.7% did not even have a job contract. Seven percent of women workers are illiterate and only 46% attended primary school.
A multidimensional form of violence
Regardless of gender, informal workers are all victims of a form of systemic discrimination in Tunisian society because of their lack of social status recognized by the state; and their subsequent exclusion from social services, with no protection from National Social Security or National Health Insurance. Informal women workers, however, have to contend with other forms of gender-based violence.
Firstly, they experience gender-based discrimination because of the patriarchal system in Tunisian society. Research conducted on the situation of women in rural areas in 2013 shows that they have limited access to formal and informal financial support, especially when seeking investments, because “they are considered less creditworthy than men ” . In addition, because of the gendered division of roles within the family, some women do not control the money they themselves have generated. As one participant stated in a report on women’s work in agriculture, “Indeed, it is rare to see women sitting around doing nothing, when we gather to chat and whenever we have a free moment, we weave. Moreover, blankets and carpets are a true form of savings because whenever he needs cash, the head of the family can go sell them at the nearest weekly market and use the funds.”
Furthermore, violence in informal work places is pervasive and many women are victims of violence and sexual harassment. A survey by the Association of Tunisian Women for Research and Development (AFTURD) on full time domestic workers, of which 96.7%  have no job contract; also shows that 14.2% of respondents claim to have been victims of sexual abuse at the hand of their employers. Worryingly 16.2% young women say they were forced into sexual touching and 18.2% into forced sexual intercourse. In addition, many women workers in the region of Monastir claim their low social status leaves them vulnerable to street harassment . These attacks generally go unreported, as women in informal work have no legal protection. All of these factors undermine women’s rights and perpetuate gender inequalities in the society
Instruments to counter this violence
In Tunisia, workers are protected by various international and national instruments: the International Labour Organization (ILO) instruments, including Convention No. 118 concerning equal treatment in matters of social security; the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and its Optional Protocol adopted by Tunisia, on which the reservations were officially lifted in April 2014, should ensure the principles of gender equality and non-discrimination, including stereotyped gender roles and prejudice (art. 5), rural women (art. 14), employment (Article 11) and bank loans (art.13) . The Tunisian labour code also regulates work relationships and conditions, as well as penalties for violations. The new Constitution , adopted in January 2014, establishes in its preamble the equality of all citizens, the right to work in decent conditions (Article 40) and the role of the State in the fight against violence and guaranteeing of women’s rights (Art. 46).
Gaps, contradictions and lack of implementation
Despite all these instruments ostensibly available to address violence against informal women workers, a major hurdle persists in Tunisia in challenging informality as a factor, due to some legislative gaps or contradictions within the new constitution. The Penal Code, specifically Articles 218, 227a, 226b and 239, does not provide an overriding law that criminalizes all forms of violence against women . Additionally, Tunisia has not yet ratified Convention No. 189 of the ILO on decent work for domestic workers to ensure the “right to a healthy and safe working environment” (art.13). Also, the Tunisian labour code does not mention gender based violence or sexual harassment.
In light of these loopholes, the ongoing development of a new legal framework – which was discussed during a December 2013 seminar hosted by the Ministry of Women’s and Family Affairs, the European Council and the United Nations Fund for Population Activities – should also take into account the aspect of informality of women’s employment to effectively address all forms of gender based violence.
In addition, organizations supporting victims of gender-based violence have a role to play on the ground, because as Saloua Kannou, AFTURD president, explained, “establishing a database on violence against women in Tunisia will limit the prevalence of this phenomenon” .
Constitution de La République Tunisienne, 26 janvier 2014.
The recommendations by the mechanisms of the United Nations’ human rights system in Tunisia, OHCHR Tunisia, May 2014.
Global employment trends for women, International Labour Organization, December 2012.
 Nidhal Ben Cheikh, “L’extension de la protection sociale à l’économie informelle à l’épreuve de la transition en Tunise », Centre de Recherches et d’Etudes Sociales”, May 2013.
Tunisia: Economic Challenges and Social Post – Revolution, African Development Bank, 2012.
Exploratory study on human trafficking in Tunisia, International Organization for Migration – Tunisian Republic, June 2013.
 Women represent about 150,000 more people in the first quarter 2014.Source: Evolution de la population en âge d’activité ” 15 ans et plus ” selon le sexe 2006-2014, Institut National de la Statistique.
 Taux de chômage selon le sexe 2006-2014, Institut National de la Statistique. Note that these figures are contested due to the obsolete calculation methods used by the official statistics institutions.
 Tunisian Inclusive Labor Initiative (TLILI) study, El Amouri Institute, January 2013.
 Violations des droits économiques et sociaux des femmes travailleuses dans le secteur du textile, Forum Tunisien pour les Droits Economiques et Sociaux, 2013.
Recherche sur la situation des femmes en milieu rural tunisien et leur accès aux services publics dans onze gouvernorats de la Tunisie, CEDR-Agricole, décembre 2013.
 Le travail des femmes dans le secteur agricole: Entre précarité et empowerment, Population Council, June 2011.
Les aides ménagères à temps complet. Violences et non droits. AFTURD, 2008-2009.
Violations des droits économiques et sociaux des femmes travailleuses dans le secteur du textile, Forum Tunisien pour les Droits Economiques et Sociaux, 2013
 Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women.
Constitution de La République Tunisienne, 26 janvier 2014.
The recommendations by the mechanisms of the United Nations’ human rights system in Tunisia, OHCHR Tunisia
 “Une base de données et une stratégie unifiée pour lutter contre la violence à l’égard des femmes”, Babnet Tunisie, 13 juin 2014 .
An ILO assessment of Syrian refugee employment in Lebanon finds that low wages, high unemployment and lack of labour market regulation pose serious challenges to livelihoods for both residents and refugees in host communities.
Female Syrian refugees are particularly vulnerable to unemployment, informal employment is expanding and action is needed regarding minimum wages, social protection and regulation of informal employment
BEIRUT (ILO News) – Almost a third of Syrian refugees in Lebanon’s labour market are unemployed, said the International Labour Organization in a study entitled “Assessment of the Impact of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon and their Employment Profile”.
The report says that most Syrian refugees working in Lebanon also suffer from low wages and harsh working conditions. It also points to refugees’ lack of skills and education.
“Both Syrian refugees and Lebanese residents are suffering from the effects of an unregulated labour market,” says Mary Kawar, Senior Employment Specialist at the ILO Regional Office for the Arab States (ROAS). “The large supply of low-wage Syrian workers causes further deregulation and expands informal employment resulting in downward pressures on wages and the deterioration of working conditions. In turn, this negatively affects Lebanese host communities and refugees who are both increasingly unable to live in dignity or maintain sufficient access to livelihoods.”
The ILO assessment found that Syrian workers in Lebanon earned substantially less than their Lebanese counterparts. The report consisted of face-to-face interviews as well as semi-structured questionnaires with some 2,000 individuals. Average monthly income for a Syrian refugee in Lebanon is almost 40 per cent less than the minimum wage of 675,000 Lebanese Pounds (US$448).
|The focus should be on creating decent work opportunities through actions that regulate informal labour.”
F. Hagemann, ILO ROAS
Female Syrian refugees were particularly vulnerable to unemployment. Over two thirds of women looking for work in Lebanon were unable to find a job. Only two out of 10 working refugees were female, earning about 40 per cent less on average than their male counterparts.
Informal work dominates Syrian refugee employment with nine out of 10 Syrian refugees in Lebanon employed without a formal contract. One out of two refugee workers in Lebanon also reported suffering from back and joint pain or severe fatigue as well as extreme cold or heat. Almost two-thirds of Syrian refugees reported exposure to dust and fumes in the workplace.
“This report reveals that the response to the Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon needs to take on a holistic and comprehensive approach which addresses Lebanon’s pre-existing labour market challenges and balances the humanitarian support with the developmental needs of Lebanon’s host communities,” says Frank Hagemann, Deputy Regional Director of the ILO ROAS. “The focus should be on creating decent work opportunities through actions that regulate informal labour, protect minimum wages, promote safety at work, provide social protection and encourage sustainable enterprise development.”
Key figures from the report:
- 30 per cent: Unemployment rate of Syrian refugees active in Lebanon’s labour market.
- 68 per cent: Unemployment rate among Syrian refugee women active in Lebanon’s labour market.
- 88 per cent: Syrian refugees in Lebanon employed in either unskilled or semi-skilled jobs.
- 418,000 LBP (US$277): Average monthly income for a Syrian refugee worker, as opposed to Lebanon’s minimum wage of 675,000 LBP (US$448).
- 432,000 LBP (US$287): Average monthly income for a male Syrian refugee worker.
- 248,000 LBP (US$165): Average monthly income for a female Syrian refugee worker.
- 92 per cent: Syrian refugees in Lebanon working without a formal contract.
- 56 per cent: Syrian refugee workers in Lebanon employed on a seasonal, weekly or daily basis.
- 74 days: The average time a Syrian refugee worker requires to find employment.
A new ILO study examines the constraints on working women in Algeria and the opportunities available to them.
Despite the considerable advances seen in the Algerian political sphere, where women constitute over 31 per cent of the deputies to the National Assembly (*), their economic participation remains very low.
In 2011, with a proportion of 17.7 per cent of women in the workforce, Algeria – alongside Iraq and Syria – was among the countries with the lowest level of female economic participation in the world – according to an ILO study pending publication (**). Women are, nevertheless, gradually beginning to enter the workforce. According to the National Statistical Office of Algeria, by 2013 the female labour force participation rate had risen to 19 per cent.
“Invisible” home-based activities
According to the ILO study, the female labour force participation rate is held back by a multitude of complex, notably sociocultural, factors.
Parts of the population do not consider that women who perform unpaid home-based activities in such areas as the agricultural, livestock, textile and clothing sectors are really part of the labour force.
The weight of tradition or certain family constraints restrict women’s work and travel opportunities.
Young women often have little contact with the world outside their family circle and are also less well informed and less prepared for entrepreneurial life. Families are often more inclined to provide moral and financial support to boys for enterprise-creation projects.
The lady from Tissemsilt herself told the ILO investigators: “I would like my daughter to go to university, but I do not want her to work. I would like her to study, to become cultured and to achieve all she can at university, that would be a good thing, but I would prefer her not to work as she will never be respected at work. The men have no respect for young women.”
This statement by a wife and mother of five children, which appears in the ILO study, speaks volumes about cultural obstacles to the participation of women in working life.
Hearing what women have to say
In addition to conducting a detailed analysis of labour market statistics for women between 2001 and 2011, the study’s authors – Jacques Charmes and Malika Remaoun – also spoke to women directly in order to compare the statistical data collected with the daily reality experienced by Algerian women.
The women described their lives and ambitions and reflected on their own family, educational and occupational experiences. The study presents a number of positive developments seen in women’s employment, which are the result of various mechanisms put in place for them by the authorities.
The report stresses, however, that women hold their destiny in their own hands and future progress will depend on their determination to push back the boundaries and overcome obstacles.
Concluding the debate more eloquently than any statistic, one woman entrepreneur from Tiaret notes:
“It is also a question of not wanting to be dependent on men, of having a career, of demonstrating one’s true abilities. And I think that women are more determined, they have more to offer.”
* In accordance with a law passed in November 2011, which imposes a female quota of 20–50 per cent of the seats on their list.
** Les contraintes et opportunités pour l’emploi des femmes en Algérie, ILO, Algiers, 2014 (pending publication).
الأردن: 44 في المئة العاملين في القطاع غير المنظم
عّمان – نورما نعمات
السبت ١٦ نوفمبر ٢٠١٣
أعلن الأمين العام لوزارة العمل الأردنية حمادة ابو نجمة أن تزايد نسبةالعاملين في القطاع غير المنظم بلغت 44 في المئة من إجمالي العاملين، 26 فيالمئة منهم في القطاع الخاص و17 في المئة يعملون لحسابهم الخاص وواحد فيالمئة للعمال في المنازل من دون أجر.
وأضاف خلال مشاركته في ورشة عمل وطنية حول القطاع غير المنظم وأثره علىالاقتصاد الوطني أن «ما يزيد على ثلثي مشاريع هذا القطاع لم يتجاوزرأسمالها 500 دينار، موضحاً أن الطابع العائلي يغلب على ملكية المؤسساتالعاملة في القطاع بما نسبته 77 في المئة. ولفت إلى أن 35 في المئة منالعاملين هم من الذكور و11 في المئة الإناث، وتراوح متوسط ساعات عملهم بين 9و16 ساعة يومياً.
وأشار أبو نجمة إلى أن العاملين غير الحاصلين على الثانوية العامةيشكلون 56.3 في المئة، فيما تلقى 43.7 في المئة منهم تعليماً ثانوياً أوأكثر، موضحاً أن 82.9 في المئة منهم تراوح أعمارهم بين 20 و49 عاماً.
تراجع دور الدولة الاقتصادي
وعزا ظهور هذا القطاع إلى تراجع دور الدولة في الحياة الاقتصادية وبطءنمو الاقتصاد الرسمي وارتفاع نسب البطالة نتيجة غياب المهارات المناسبةوالمطلوبة للوظائف المتاحة بسبب الأمية والجهل، إلى جانب الهجرة المتزايدةللأيدي العاملة الماهرة وغير الماهرة من الريف إلى المدن، ما أدى إلى تزايدإفقار الريف وسهولة التهرب من العملية التنظيمية المحلية مثل الضرائبوالرسوم والتسريح المتزايد للأيدي العاملة نتيجة المنافسة الدولية ونتائجالعولمة، فضلاً عن تدني مستوى الأجور. وأشار إلى استحواذ إقليم الوسط علىأكثر من نصف العاملين في هذا القطاع بما نسبته 57 في المئة في مقابل 24.9في المئة في إقليم الشمال و18.1 في المئة في إقليم الجنوب.
وبيّن أن من الصعوبات التي تحول دون تنظيم القطاع حصول العاملين فيه علىالحقوق والامتيازات المنصوص عليها في القوانين المعمول بها، وعدم شمولهمبالضمان الاجتماعي، وصعوبة ظروف بيئة العمل، وعدم الالتزام بمعايير الصحةوالسلامة العامة.
by Laila Azzeh |
AMMAN — Around 44 per cent of Jordan’s workforce in 2010 operated in the shadow economy, according to a study announced on Wednesday.
“This magnitude requires intensified efforts to regulate the underground sector,’ Planning and International Cooperation Minister Jafar Hassan said during a press conference that revealed the results of the report, which was carried out in cooperation with the UN Development Programme, the Economic and Social Council with the support of the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation.
The grey market is characterised as salaried labourers who work in the private sector without contracts or social security, unpaid labourers or the self-employed.
“This is the first in-depth study of the informal sector, whose volume has always been underestimated,” Hassan said stressing that the survey is important in guaranteeing the quality of services provided to citizens through the underground market.
Noting that 56 per cent of the total labour force works in the formal sector (34 per cent in the public sector and 22 per cent in the private sector), the study showed that 26 per cent of informal workers were from the private sector, 17 per cent were self-employed and 1 per cent worked at (family businesses) without wages.
From a gender perspective, male informal workers constituted 48 per cent of the total workforce, while informal female labourers stood at 27 per cent of the total number of employed women in Jordan.
Of the total informal male workers, 19 per cent were self-employed, 28 per cent worked in the private sector and 1 per cent were unpaid, whereas informal female labourers in the private sector accounted for 17 per cent, 7 per cent were self-employed and 3 per cent were unpaid.
“Informal employment is traditionally associated with inferior earnings and wage inequality or emanating from mainstream poverty. But this is not necessarily the case, as some informal labourers are leading successful businesses and others are also working in the public sector,” Hassan highlighted.
According to the study, 30 per cent of informal workers was in the crafts sector, followed by services and suppliers, 24 per cent and then machine operators 17 per cent.
In high administrative jobs, the informal labour was a meager 0.4 per cent.
The concentration was in the retail, wholesale and vehicle repair sectors, at 30 per cent, followed by the manufacturing, 18.6 per cent, transport and stocking, 11.7 per cent and construction, 11.1 per cent.
Informal workers are less likely to engage in the ICT, hotels, education, health, agriculture and social services fields.
The study highlighted that, at 32.4 per cent, retail and wholesale trade, vehicle and motorcycles repair employed the highest number of informal male workers. Most informal female labourers were employed in the social services and healthcare services, 17 per cent.
Guest workers in the underground market constituted 25 per cent of those working in the private sector, showed the study, indicating that foreign labourers are mainly employed in small-and-micro enterprises.
Almost 80 per cent of informal labourers are not given work leaves, even in cases of illness or injury, and face job insecurity.
“We have conducted this study to regulate the informal market and ensure that workers are being granted their full rights, particularly health insurance and social security umbrellas,” the minister underlined.
He said the second phase of the study is in the pipeline, which includes a panoramic study on the informal sector in order to diagnose reasons behind employers’ preference for this sector, the impact of the under-the-table pay on workers and whether it is better to turn the sector into an official one and consequences associated with such a step.
The study will also address the impact of the unofficial sector on the overall economy, said Hassan.
The survey involved a sample of 5,760 families drawn from the 2004 General Census of Population and Housing.
The study was based on the 2010 Labour Market Survey carried out by the Department of Statistics in cooperation with Al Manar Project and the Economic Research Forum in Cairo.
On July 22, 2013 Al Akhbar newspaper published a profile report on 39 years old Zeinab Nassrallah, who grows tobacco in an area exceeding 50 thousand square meters, produce bread, and sell it on a daily basis, also runs a small commercial shop near her home, and follows studies in one of the neighboring religious schools ‘Hawzaat’. The newspaper report describes in much detail Zeinab’s daily multiple chores, and quotes her saying that organization and good management are the two backbones of success. Despite the skepticism of some of her neighboring farmers about her capacity to grow tobacco alone on such a large area, Zeinab indicated that she began at 17 years of age by cultivating 12 dunums, reaching now 50 dunums and aiming for more. She noted that the personal and external difficulties that she has gone through (poverty, war and the premature death of her father) have strengthened her resolve to maintain her dignity and the dignity of her sisters.
Zeinab points out that what bothers her most are not work difficulties but criticisms by others. Some for example do not approve of her driving a pick-up truck to transfer laborer. Nevertheless, Zeinab remains upbeat and ambition now to learn how to fix vehicles to address emergencies. She also has plans to raise cattle and bees, and thus secure less strenuous livelihood opportunities to her sisters.
Source: Al-Akhbar 22 July 2013
زينب تزرع 50 دونماً دخّاناً وتخبز 400 رغيف يومياً
عندما تنهض زينب نصرالله (39 سنة) عند الثالثة فجراً، يبدأ يوم عمل جديد. بسرعة ترتدي زينب ثياب العمل وتدير محرّك سيارتها الجديدة من نوع «بيك آب». تجول على عدد من الأيدي العاملة من أبناء بلدتها، لتقلّهم الى سهل الخيام، الذي يبعد عن البلدة نحو 25 كلم. هناك يكون القطاف على أنوار مستعمرة المطلّة الخافتة، فالقطاف الباكر جداً ضروريّ لاستغلال الوقت، لكنه يحتاج الى الضوء الذي لا توفّره الدولة هنا.
تتسابق زينب وعمالها إلى قطاف أوراق التبغ المرّة، لأن الحقول التي زرعتها كبيرة جداً، تزيد مساحتها على 50 ألف متر مربع، وهو رقم لم يصل اليه مزارع جنوبي حتى الآن، فكيف اذا كانت مزارعة ــ امرأة.
تخبز زينب الخبز ايضا وتبيعه، اضافة الى مواظبتها على ادارة دكان صغير قرب منزلها، ومتابعة دراستها الدينية في احدى حوزات المنطقة. 50 ألف متر مربع مزروعة بشتول التبغ مغامرة كبيرة في نظر أبناء المنطقة من المزارعين، فكيف مع كل الاعمال الاخرى الاضافية.
يقول علي ابراهيم، من بلدة عيترون، «نحن عائلة من 8 أفراد نزرع طوال السنة 10 دونمات، ولا وقت لدينا للفراغ»، ويعتبر أن «زراعة 50 دونم أمر مستحيل»، لكن لزينب رأياً آخر وتجربة أخرى، تروي انها «بدأت بزراعة 12 دونماً، وأنا في السابعة عشرة من عمري، أما اليوم فأزرع الخمسين دونم وأطمح للمزيد»، وتعتبر أن «التنظيم والادارة هما أساس النجاح، لذلك أجيد استخدام الوقت والمصاريف». تتحدث زينب عن أيام الفقر والاحتلال، يومها فكّرت ماذا عليها أن تفعل للحفاظ على كرامتها وكرامة أخواتها، «تعلّمت زراعة التبغ من والدي، الذي رحل عنا باكراً، فأخذت على عاتقي متابعة الطريق، وعلمت أنني استطيع فعل كل شيء بالصبر والنظام».
عند المغيب تتهيأ زينب وأخواتها الثلاث لصناعة الخبز المرقوق، أما في أوقات الاستراحة من زراعة التبغ، فتعمل زينب على خبز الخبز مع احدى شقيقاتها، وتقول «علينا ان نخبز يومياً 20 عدّة خبز كحدّ أدنى»، أي ما يعادل 400 رغيف خبز، يتم تسويقها بسرعة قياسية، «الزبائن يحضرون الى المنزل ليأخذوا الخبز وبعض التجار يوزعونه على المحال التجارية». هذا لا يعني أن لا وقت للفراغ عند هذه الأسرة، «نعيش كغيرنا من أبناء البلدة، لكننا نستغلّ الوقت جيداً، ونفتح دكاناً صغيراً كان يحقق لنا أرباحاً معقولة، فنحن نستطيع البيع والشراء أثناء عملنا في شكّ التبغ أو خبز الخبز في جوار المنزل، لأن الزبائن يعلمون مكان وجودنا».
في شهر أيار من كل عام تكون زينب قد انتهت من زراعة شتول التبغ وبدأت بقطاف شتول أخرى، فالأراضي تحتاج الى وقت طويل لزراعتها ( بين آذار ونيسان)، وتحتاج زينب الى نحو 10 عمال لمساعدتها على القطاف، لأن سهل الخيام ينتج بشكل مضاعف، نسبة الى أراضي القرى الجبلية، وهذا يساعد زينب على ترك العمل في الحقل قليلاً لتعود الى البلدة لمتابعة عملية شك الأوراق، التي توزع الكثير منها على بنات الضيعة ليساعدنها على شكّها مقابل أجر محدد، في الوقت عينه تقوم زينب بطبخ الطعام للعمال داخل منزلها، وأحياناً تستغل بعض أوقات الفراغ لمتابعة دروسها الدينية.
تحتاج زراعة 50 دونماً من التبغ الى مصاريف كثيرة، اضافة الى استئجار الرخص من أصحابها، تقول زينب «تكلفني زراعة هذه الأراضي 30 مليون ليرة سنوياً، أما الانتاج الصافي فيزيد على الخمسين مليون ليرة». انتاج زينب وأخواتها بات مثالاً يُحتذى. حتى أن بعض الأمهات بتن يعايرن بها أولادهن من الشباب العاطلين عن العمل، ويقلن لهم «شوفو زينب كيف بتشتغل بتعرفوا انوا بالبلد ما بيخلى الشغل». أحد أبناء البلدة من المغتربين، قرّر ترك الاغتراب في ألمانيا والعودة الى زراعة التبغ في سهل الخيام، «استأجر 30 دونماً وزرعها هذا العام على أمل الانتاج المضاعف». تقول زينب «أجرة دونم الأرض في سهل الخيام 25 الف ليرة سنوياً، بينما في البلدة تزيد على 50 ألف ليرة، أما الانتاج فهو مضاعف أيضاً، ما يعني أن الأرباح ستكون أكثر بكثير، لذلك زراعة 50 دونم تحتاج الى استئجار 20 رخصة تبغ». أكثر ما يزعج زينب اليوم، ليس العمل وصعوبته، بل «لأن البعض يحاول انتقادي على عملي الكثير، وكأنه يتعب عني»، أما سيارة «البيك آب» فلم تحرج زينب أكثر مما زعجها عدم تقبل البعض لقيادتها ونقل عمالها الى عملهم، وكلّ ذلك لا يبدو أنه سيخفّف من نشاط زينب فهي «تطمح لتعلم كيفية تصليح أعطال السيارة الطارئة، كي استطيع تخليص نفسي واستغلال وقتي»، كما تطمح لاقامة مزرعة لتربية الأبقار وتربية النحل، وايجاد فرص انتاجية أقل مشقّة على شقيقاتي، فكل ما اريده أن يعمل شقيقاتي في مؤسسة تابعة لهن، حفاظاً على كرامتهن وعزتهن».
Around 30 participants coming from various Egyptian organisations gathered on the 25th and 26th of June at the Association of Upper Egypt for Education and Development (AUEED) to reflect on women’s invisible work at the global, regional and national level and strengthen their communications and social media capacity, within the framework of the Collective for Research and Training on Development – Action led project Sustainable Economic Opportunities for Women, currently being implemented in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Morocco.
Participants came from all over Egypt from the Future Eve association, the New Woman Foundation, the Association of Upper Egypt for Education and Development, the Badia Foundation, the Egyptian Association for Sustainable Development, the Forum of Women in Development and the Evangelical Association for Comprehensive Development.
During two days, participants worked on the meanings of women’s work amidst political changes in Egypt. The first day of the workshop was dedicated to a short summary of what has been achieved so far in terms of research and round tables on the topic of women’s work in the informal sector and of domestic work. Papers prepared by CRTD.A consultants Ms Rabea Naciri and Tina Wallace, dealing with women’s informal work in the MENA region and in Lebanon, were briefly presented, along with the debates that have been organised in Lebanon on mainstream indicators and the ideologies underlying them and on women’s informal work in Lebanon. The glaring results of these studies so far have been that women’s work at home and in the informal sector, while being absolutely crucial to household economics and society as a whole, is rarely recognized, let alone valued and accounted for. This is particularly oppressive to women as in the MENA region, the overwhelming majority of women work in the informal sector and/or at home, carrying the bulk of society’s reproduction, while official indicators still estimate the female activity rate at around 20%, one of the lowest in the world.
The issue of accounting for and accurately measuring women’s participation to the economy has been extensively tackled afterwards by the resource person coming from the WIDE Network, Ms Bénédicte Allaert who questioned in her presentation mainstream indicators that we usually take for granted, such as the GDP or what constitutes work under the ILO definition. Ms Allaert went on to demonstrate that these indicators indeed did not paint an accurate picture of economic realities, globally and in the region. Participants were then invited to break into groups and work on the concepts of women’s informal work, women’s work in the household, gender stereotypes pertaining to what is perceived as “women’s work” and the three roles women have to play (productive, reproductive and in the community) paid work/unpaid work, and women in the formal sector. The outcome of the group work was the very purpose of it: participants had different understandings of the concepts, highlighting that what is being measured and studied in the economy is only the tip of the iceberg, with most of economic relationships happening unnoticed and invisible. This knowledge and research will serve as a basis to inform and influence future and global public policies in order to improve the protection, respect and fulfilment of women’s economic rights.
The role of neo-liberal policies and their impact coupled with the impact of the economic crisis on Egyptian women were also discussed. In Egypt, lack of employment opportunities and long-standing weak social protection and work conditions systems were only worsened by the decrease in foreign investment brought about by the economic crisis, as well as the decrease in tourism. The impact of that depression in the economy was first and foremost borne by women who had to endure massive losses of jobs, and carry on the majority of the housework load.
The second day was articulated around social media and on how can Facebook Twitter and blogs help raise awareness on this topic and allow for partner to stay in touch in between physical meetings. The workshop ended with participants drafting action plans to carry the project forward, with the ultimate aim to change not only policies and laws, but also mentalities.
Stay in touch as we will soon publish interviews with Egyptian women on their points of view on why the issue of women’s work is important and relevant!
The Collective for Research and Training on Development- Action (CRTD.A) has organised a seminar on the 12th of May on women’s informal work in Lebanon. This event is part of a debate initiatied in Lebanon for the first time by the CRTD.A, around the question of feminist economics and women’s work, and comes following a first seminar that took place in March 2012 around mainstream economic indicators and the ideologies underlying them. CRTD.A has been working in women’s economic empowerment for nearly a decade now, and is currently implementing a regional project in Lebanon, Morocco, Egypt and Jordan on women’s informal work and women’s participation to the economy in these four countries and on how to visibilise women’s work.
The seminar was moderated by Ms Lina Abou Habib, CRTD.A’s Executive Director while Dr Christina Wallace, resource person, introduced the concepts of informal work and domestic work and detailed what is currently being measured worldwide with regards to women’s work. This introduction was then narrowed down to the specificity of Lebanon and of how patriarchal attitudes and beliefs, coupled with the Lebanese sectarian system and neo-liberal policies, ensured that Lebanese women’s work was rarely valued and its contribution to the economy, seldom recognized.
The audience was composed of members of the Lebanese civil society and of the women’s movement, but also of women working in the cooperatives in different regions of Lebanon. Following Ms Wallace’s intervention, participants were broken up into groups to discuss what would be the next steps to take sure the situation in Lebanon pertaining to women’s work shifts in their favour.
We have recorded women’s replies and points of view with regards to what is women’s work and how it should be valued. We’re posting one video here, and you can watch them all on our YouTube Channel here
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The report of the event is being finalised and CRTD.A will follow up on the main outcomes of the event with participants, to make sure a coherent strategy to visibilise women’s work. So stay tuned to updates here, and submit your feedback anytime!
They say we only measure what we value. Looking at the almost total absence of measure of women’s work in the informal and care economy in the Middle East, one can not help but realize the enormous bulk of work women do goes unnoticed, under valued and unrecognized. In this framework, the Collective for Research and Training on Development – Action is organizing a seminar on women’s informal work in Lebanon. If you’re interested in joining us this Saturday, 12th of May, from 9 to 14 at the YWCA of Lebanon offices in Ain el Mreisseh, kindly send an expression of interest, along with your organization and some information about yourself either to Paola Daher firstname.lastname@example.org or to Nathalie Chemaly email@example.com. We hope to see you there!