Girls Scouts of Tunisia fight for equality

On International Youth Day, Girl Guides and Girl Scouts share their experiences of what it’s like to grow up in Tunisia – and reveal why they’re committed to combatting violence, sexism and extremism…

Violence against women and girls remains an issue in Tunisia. In 2016, the Ministry of Women, Family and Childhood reported 60 percent of Tunisian women had been victims of domestic violence, while 50 percent said they had experienced aggression in a public area at least once in their lives. Now, as the Tunisian Parliament passes a measure outlawing violence against women, girls are finding their voice and bravely speaking out in the face of violence.

Abrarah, Tunisia

“Being Girl Scout makes me feel free to do what I want” - Abrarah, 16

When I walk down the street, men stare. It happens to all the girls in Tunisia. They look at my body and they comment on my headscarf.  They say things such as: ‘She’s still young, why is she wearing a headscarf?’

I like wearing my headscarf. Women in my family wear it, so I like wearing it too. Although it’s not always easy, if people ask me to change, I tell them: “This is my life, I am free. I should be able to do what I want.”

Being part of a Scout group has helped. When I first joined, I was the only one wearing a scarf in the group, but now many girls wearing one, so I feel happy! Everyone encouraged me to wear what I want. No one bothers me. I am free to do what I want.


Fatma, Tunisia

“Women are not valued for their intelligence” - Fatma, 28

In Tunisia, girls’ rights are stolen from a young age. They are subjected to verbal violence and sexual violence on a daily basis. They are seen as inferior to boys and men. Women are not valued for their intelligence they are valued for their body or looks.

If girls experience sexual harassment, we encourage them to speak out and report any issues. Girls aren’t to blame and we must change this culture.

Guiding and Girl Scouting has taught me so much. I feel I have so much to offer and when I run activities with my Brownie group, I really feel like I am helping create a generation of future leaders. 


Daous

“Girl Scouting has helped me in many ways” - Daous, 17

Girls have a tough time in Tunisia - they face violence, in particular verbal violence. Many girls face abuse if they wear a headscarf in the street. They are teased.

I became a Girl Scout four years ago, after my friends encouraged me to join. I was very shy before, but my friends said it would help me feel more comfortable and confident – and it has!


“Boys and girl must be educated from an early age” - Nadene, 19
Nadene

After the revolution, there was a huge increase in violence. People didn’t seem to understand the difference between the two.

Les Scouts Tunisiens is working hard to ensure girls and boys of all ages are educated about this issue through a range of creative activities. We share messages, we paint pictures and we participate in role-plays, it helps children learn about peace and tolerance and how to accept people from all walks of life.

Being a Girl Scout means so much to me. I’ve been a Girl Scout since I was six. It’s given me confidence and it’s taught me how to be a leader in life.  



Amal, Tunisia

“Girls’ rights matter!” - Amal, 20

Girls are good; girls are the best! Yet, we face so many issues in Tunisia. As a girl, you can’t walk down the street in shorts, without attracting comments. You’re constantly made to feel inferior. In rural areas, girls don’t even go to school.                            

Within my community, I encourage parents to send their children to activities run by Les Scouts Tunisens, so they have an opportunity to learn. I want girls to realise their worth, so I teach them how to tackle subjects such as gender inequality and gender-based violence. 

Exercising our right to vote is also important. As a Girl Scout leader, I want to make sure people use their vote. People think it doesn’t matter whether or not they vote – the result will be the same. But that’s not the case. Through Scouting, young people are starting to have conversations. They can see the importance of making a change. I am happy to see many of them vote now. If we stay indifferent, we won’t make progress. 


Hanine

“Racism isn’t something we talk about in Tunisia, but it exists” - Hanine, 23

My appearance is different to others in Tunisia. I have curly hair and my skin is darker. When I was younger, I was subject to many racist remarks. People felt they had permission to insult me. If they saw me passing, they would call me out on my colour, saying: “Hey black girl, can I ask you something?’ It was hard. I felt like I had to just get used to it.

Racism isn’t something we talk about in Tunisia, but it exists. My family is a huge tower of strength, in particular my mother. She’s always been there; she’s my friend. She explained to me that it doesn’t matter what people say. I can’t change my hair, my colour, myself.

Being a Girl Scout Leader in Tunisia has helped. I’ve learnt a lot through the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts’ projects, Stop The Violence, Free Being Me and Future Leaders of the World.

When you do something you’re passionate about, you forget everything else. Being a Girl Scout inspires me – and that’s the most important thing about this Movement. To be inspired by other leaders and see the projects they are running. It’s amazing to see how I can inspire girls in my group and I hope they will want to inspire others in the future. I am so proud to be a Girl Scout.


Khawla

“It’s not up to other people to describe my body” - Khawla (right), 16

I used to feel as though I had no self-esteem; it felt as though part of me was missing. However, Free Being Me, a programme from the World Association Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, helped me learn a great deal about myself. Now I feel positive about being me and it’s given me so much energy.

When I feel passionate about something, I speak out. I have learnt how to communicate and talk to people, but most of all I’ve learnt how to love people for who they are.

In Tunisia, girls are made to feel less than what they’re worth. We are seen as objects. Violence and sexual harassment is rife – it happens every day on the street. If I wear a short skirt, people stare at me.

I find strength through my Girl Scouting group – and that’s the most important thing. Leaders, such as Hanine are like a second family. The image Girl Scouts portray is one of respect, belief and responsibility. It’s an amazing image and I want to be able to share the energy I get from being a Girl Scout with others. 


“Being a Girl Scout helped me overcome my shyness” - Nouha, 15

Nouha

Girls face sexism on a daily basis.  We’re not allowed to participate in sports and many believe Scouting isn’t appropriate for girls. They believe girls aren’t allowed to camp with people she doesn’t know. I don’t care what people say, I do what I want. My dad is a Scout leader here and he encourages me to go camping and to do what I want.

As a Girl Scout we work hard to ensure girls and boys are educated about issues such as extremism and how to stop violence against girls and women.

Being a Girl Scout helped me overcome my shyness. I am now able to talk to strangers. I really want to see more girls join Les Scouts Tunisiens. A lot of girls in Tunisia are excluded from social activities and they don’t do anything other than go to school and come home. Being a Girl Scout provides so many opportunities. You make friends, you do things together and you help other people - it makes me feel good about myself. 


Khouloud

“We can’t stay indifferent” - Khouloud, 24

In Southern Tunisia, many girls are not able to go to school, as they live so far away and they cannot access transportation. In many of the communities, there is a risk of rape, as there’s a lack of security. As a Girl Scout, it’s our responsibility to tackle these issues. We visit families and encourage them to send their girls to school as they deserve an education. We can’t stay indifferent, we need to move forward.


Safa

“We are all the same, no matter where we are from” – Safa (left), 21

In Tunisia, people find it difficult to accept others. As a Girl Scout leader, I want to teach children that we are all the same, no matter what our colour, creed or religion.

I run art classes and creative projects to promote peace. For example, I work with Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts as young as five, showing them how to create two hands out of clay – one black and one white – to signify peace. 


LES SCOUTS TUNISIENS is currently the largest co-ed youth organisation in Tunisia. There are over 30,000 Girl Guides and Boy Scouts in Tunisia, focusing on activities such as tackling extremism, fighting drug abuse, speaking out about gender-based violence, supporting refugees and promoting the importance of body confidence. 

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