The Netherlands and Tunisia: committed to women’s rights in the Arab region

The Netherlands and Tunisia are to strengthen their cooperation on women’s rights. Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Lilianne Ploumen announced this on Wednesday after visiting a women’s clinic in Tunis. ‘Women have equal rights here,’ the minister said. ‘That’s not a matter of course in North African and Middle Eastern countries. We are working with Tunisia in Mali and Yemen to improve the position of women there. And we want to see if we can do the same in other countries. As an Arab country, Tunisia is in a better position than the Netherlands to send out progressive signals in the region.’ Earlier in the day, Ms Ploumen had lunch with a group of influential Tunisian women, with whom she discussed women’s rights.

Ms Ploumen concluded after her visit that Tunisia is a ray of hope in a very volatile region. ‘It’s the only country where the Arab Spring was followed by a democratic process that is still on course,’ she said. ‘That is partly because so many civil society organisations were involved in the revolution. A society can only undergo major changes if they are supported by the people.’

The changes in Tunisia have paved the way for cooperation in an increasing number of areas. ‘The Netherlands is not here for quick wins,’ said Ms Ploumen. ‘We’re a long-term partner, helping to strengthen Tunisia’s socioeconomic development. That is one of the reasons our companies are in high demand here,’ she added. For the Dutch companies travelling with Ms Ploumen, the opportunities lie mainly in maritime infrastructure and agriculture. Tunisia wants to invest in port expansion and modernising the horticultural sector.

The minister also met with the female president of the Tunisian employers’ organisation, visited a sustainable tomato farm and held talks with the trade minister. On Thursday Ms Ploumen will travel to Algeria.