Empowerment of young people and women: the key to development
This article is part of the UfM Report: Visions and actions to promote gender equality in the Mediterranean
If the issue of reinforcing female and youth leadership in the speeches demonstrates evidence and acknowledges a consensus, it is not the same as mechanisms put in place to consolidate this leadership. Until now, the positive discrimination in favour of these two categories, has been an important integration and development tool of political leadership, enabling them better participation in decision making, and that without experiencing, would that not be in Tunisia where a law blocking violence against women has just been passed, thanks to strong female lobbying in the Assembly of representatives of the People. Nevertheless, if this mechanism is experiencing an unprecedented development in favour of women, it is not as pronounced for young people, who remain, at the least we can say, marginalised, with rather low representation rates, surely as a result of a lack of organisation due to the very characteristics of this population.
In this sense and in the framework of regional cooperation, the work carried out by Empowerment of young people and women: the key to development. the Union for the Mediterranean through regional platforms for dialogue is essential to achieving the empowerment of Mediterranean women. The 4th UfM Ministerial Meeting on Strengthening the Role of Women in Society is a necessary meeting to reinforce the regional efforts already undertaken but it is above all an opportunity to advance, through concrete approaches, the place of women at both political and economic levels. However, beyond the political domain, very few mechanisms have been introduced to affirm this leadership, mainly in the economic domain. At this level, a major challenge, that of empowerment, is still to be taken note of.
An empowerment which is first and foremost financial, the key to emancipation, by encouraging women and young people to take responsibility very early on in their career in order to give themselves the widest range of options available.
This will enable them to be closer to their skills and ambitions, in an enabling environment, to be aware of the laws adapted to professional integration, a financial system in line with their needs and an administration which is reactive and attentive. Financial empowerment must be accompanied by mechanisms of equal access to information, thus compensating for the lack of social integration of this population and allowing existing financial opportunities, both on the local and national or regional plan, to be made more evident.
But it is necessary to underline the impact of mobility on empowerment and development of leadership. The multiple restrictions which exist between northern and southern countries, regarding mobility and mainly that of young people, based exclusively on security arguments, represents a major handicap. Arguments concerning security and financial aspects in favour of these restrictions are often brought to light, but a real analysis of their social impact has never been undertaken. In a world where technology offers unprecedented openness, it is necessary to review the exchange and mobility mechanisms of human beings between countries. The plea should also be reviewed. Until now, the steps taken by progressive individuals to make a case in favour of better inclusion of women and young people in financial and political processes, were based mainly on arguments linked to principles of equality and human rights. Yet, those from countries where the conservative way of thinking is dominant, mainly southern countries, are fully aware that these arguments do not have the necessary impact to inject a change of pace that we are expecting. Moreover, this is why with each new episode on the issue—be it a new law, initiative or programme—we sense the difficulty of imposing a certain rationality on the debate, to quickly fall into ideological wars that result in the initiatives taken losing their consistency, and consequently their impact.
Nowadays, it is essential to adapt our arguments to the context and to focus directly on what could influence citizens’ choice, namely the financial impact of conservatism or the shortfalls due to the political and economic exclusion of young people and women. Consequently, it is necessary to highlight the effects of social development on financial policies: without social change, the financial development of nations cannot take place.
Furthermore, basing myself on the Tunisian experience, it can be clearly observed that the most developed regions are the regions with a better integration rate of women and young people. On the contrary, the conservative regions, although they often have important natural resources, struggle to make progress financially.
Maximising the chances of a population’s success inevitably involves the development of all its skills, especially for populations made up mostly of young people, where women are increasingly educated and represent an important workforce. If young people are known for having an entrepreneurial and innovation spirit, empathy, kindness and being ethical are recognised as being female qualities… A society in which leadership is innovative, energetic, empathetic and benevolent can only develop in the right direction.
Faten Kallel, Secretary of State responsible for Youth, Tunisia
Faten Kallel, 36, Tunisian female politician. Currently holding the post of Secretary of State responsible for Youth Affairs, member of the National Unity Government since August 2016. Consultant in trade management, specialising mainly in public governance, she held the posts of councillor under the auspices of Minister of Development, Investment and International Cooperation, and of Minister of Technologies and Digital Economy. A member of the political office of the liberal party Afek Tounes, she was a candidate in the 2011 and 2014 legislative elections. In March 2017, she was nominated by the World Economic Forum among the list of Young Global Leaders.