Tidbits of Arabic News translated into English

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Anna Lindh and Arab Debates

(March 3, 2014)

Apparently, there's a whole array of spaces for young Arabs to debates. There's something called Young Arab Voices behind the movement, and the BBC Arabic supports them as well, as it often broadcasts these debates. And they even get a BBC Arabic presenter, Samir Farah, to moderate them.

The other day, I was watching on of these debates, and I was so happy because I noticed that the Anna Lindh Foundation is also supporting these debates:

The Anna Lindh Foundation is a Swedish organization named after Sweden's former foreign minister. Every time the camera focused on the guy in the photo above, who was one half of the debate, I saw Anna Lindh's name. It was very nice!

The debates are about all sorts of things. This debate took place amongst Tunisian college students. The first debate questioned: should Tunisian workers be allowed to strike or not?

One girl said: yes, because strikes are a democratic way for workers to have power.
The opposing guy said: no, because strikes disrupt the economy.

An audience was watching. At the end, the audience voted that the girl was far more eloquent in her presentation; but, as for the audience's convictions, it was split evenly between those who agreed that workers can strike, and those who disagreed.

The second debate question was: should there be a quota in the Tunisian Parliament for women. Here they are going at it:

A girl called Rania presented a case for the quota, and a guy called Hamza presented a case against.

Hamza said: there's already equality amongst Tunisian men and women, so the quota would be an unfair advantage for women, something they don't need. Women in Tunisia have all the rights and freedoms that men have.

Rania said: no, there's not yet equality.

Hamza said: you just finished telling us how Tunisian women are equal to men, and also, if you are so interested in the democratic process, then note that no other established democratic countries have quotas for women.

The girl choked on this. Then the moderator, Samir Farah, told her: you could have responded by saying: those more established countries used to have quotas, until women's rights had become more and more guaranteed by social norms and the laws.

In Tunisia, there's a law that says half the candidates on the election sheet must be women, and half must be men. So Hamza said: even with this special provision, still not nearly as many women were elected as men! I think he used that to show that people don't want to vote for women in the first place, so there ought not to be a quota.

But a girl from the audience said: yes, and when they made the election sheets, they put all the men's names at the top (!). We are in a eastern society, we have to acknowledge that there are obstacles fronting women that men don't face. So we have to have a quota.

Then another girl from the audience got up with her question:

She said to Rania: my valued madam, you said that Tunisian women have accomplished a lot. I agree with you whole-heartedly, and this is why I don't think a quota is to the advantage of women. Why? Because women are capable of reaching high positions based on their skills alone. When we have a quota, it gives the impression that women are weak and unable to compete on their own against men. It should be a fair competition between men and women, and whoever is more qualified should be the person chosen.

"My valued madam" Rania said: well, the current government only has three women ministers. That's not even a tenth. So where is the equality?

The girl from the audience said (I think): well, a quota is not going to help. It has to be a whole change in the society.

In this case, the audience voted at the end with a very slight majority in favor of not having a quota; and they also voted for Hamza being more eloquent in handling the debate than Rania, though in my opinion, he was all that good, either.

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