Tunisian women stake claim in male-dominated industries.

  • Tunisian women are rising up to the labor challenge in their country.
  • They are not relenting; they are measuring up, filling up the unemployment gap.
  • Men-dominated trades are gradually getting infiltrated by talented Tunisian women.

It was rare, years ago, in the north African country of Tunisia to find women holding their own in masonry, auto repair, carpentry, and aircraft piloting, among other male-controlled work spheres, but recently, Tunisian women are gradually plunging headlong into some of these areas.


Sociologists say Tunisian women break into the business world of men because the social and living conditions in Tunisia have encouraged women’s involvement in work so that their families can benefit, especially in cases where they are singularly the providers of their families. Also, Tunisian sociologists believe that the high proportion of females working in male professions is an indication of the change in social roles and core stereotypes concerning men and women.


Traditionally, women tackled domestic and reproductive roles and jobs in Tunisian societies. Generally, jobs like teaching, nursing, and sewing were primarily to be taken up by women. However, the tides seem to be changing. Tunisian gas station attendant, Labib a Fer chichi, who has been working for over 20 years, told journalists that success’ sure route is persistence. In spite of social rejection and unfavorable conditions at work, she gave herself to the job and conquered obstacles in her path.


Heavy truck driver, Nadia Abu Fares, shared with journalists how she found it strange to initially do such a job that rallied several men around her, but, armed with skill, practice, and passion she has carved a path for herself in that masculine space. The young lady who is also a driving instructor says “I love trucks, as my father loved mechanics of all kinds, so I took the driving test and passed. Another reason is I was challenged in 2004 when it was the driving test for trucks, as one of my colleagues was an old man, he said I would never be able to pass, but I wanted to prove to him that I could pass without help, with my own effort. On the day of the test, I entered the hall and saw it was all men there. One of them looked at me and said I entered the wrong hall, as it was not the hall for light cars, so I answered him that I am in the right hall, and that I was there to take the test with him.”


Also, Fatima Al-Ferjani, a Service Technician shares her thoughts and feelings, she said “I worked as an accountant and then moved on to work as a mechanic and selling auto parts. I search for parts online, memorize their names, and sell them. I found myself loving this profession…” The supply pressure in the labor market remains high, especially for certain in-demand or high-demand services. Job seekers outnumber employers, despite Tunisia being in the advanced stage of a unique transition, a transition involving work and social life.


According to the 2015 Global Gender Gap Report, thirteen out of the fifteen countries with the lowest rates of women participating in their labor force are in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Yemen has the lowest rate of working women in the region, followed by Syria, Jordan, Iran, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Lebanon, Egypt, Oman, Tunisia, Mauritania, and Turkey. Women’s participation in the workforce in MENA is expected to spike, especially when the education rate is at parity for girls and boys, and when, often, the girls outperform the boys in school.


According to 18-year-old student Farah Mkaouar, Tunisian women in the 21st century need a lot more support. The 1956 Personal Status Code guarantees Tunisian girls and women the right to study and work. There are laws against marriage under the age of 18 and marriage against consent.  All of these should increase the number of women leaders in male-dominated fields like aerospace engineering and politics. She is optimistic that, while men are known in Tunisia for specific types of occupations, women will soon rise in the hierarchy of jobs ascribed to men only.

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