August 15, 2016 15:12

Humanitarian Work Is Not Enough

Ikram Ben Saïd, Founder and Former President of Aswat Nissa, an organisation which aims to fight gender-based discrimination by promoting a culture of equality, and by encouraging women's participation at all levels of society. © Hivos

World Humanitarian Day story of Ikram Ben Saïd, Founder and Former President of Aswat Nissa (Women’s Voices), founded in 2011, at the beginning of the Tunisian revolution. Contributed by our member Hivos.

Single and young, Ikram's fight starts in her private life. “We don’t have that much real individual freedom; I always have to watch out for what the neighbours might say. In the morning, I think a lot about what I’m going to wear, not only to be elegant but also to avoid harassment or a look, especially because I don’t have a car and I use public transport or taxis.”

Involved in defending human rights, she realised that humanitarian work was not enough; women’s rights depend on policies and laws. This explains her present work with Aswat Nissa, especially on the project ‘Women’s Political Academy’ which supports women in municipal elections, and which received the prestigious Madeleine K. Albright Award in 2014.

About living in a conservative society with a Muslim culture, she says, “I am a practising Muslim and I have a very progressive perception of Islam. When God says in the Qur'an, ‘I will create a caliph on earth’ speaking of Adam and humanity in general, I too am the caliph of God; he gave me carte blanche, he did not say ‘I'm going to create a man caliph’.”

Even though she is struggling against mainstream laws and mentalities that restrict women’s rights and assign them duties inferior to men’s, she remains aware of her environment and society. Under the Ben Ali regime, she was committed to helping single women and their children because it had to be done. “It was not directly about politics, but you can always do something to make a difference. With the revolution, the possibilities are countless thanks to the freedom we won.”

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This story is part of Alliance2015 World Humanitarian Day campaign, featuring stories of humanitarians working with our members. For more information about the campaign and other stories, please click here.