#AmelBouchoucha snubbed the President’s invitation to celebrate National Women’s Day at the Presidential Palace

A number of Tunisia’s leading female advocates snubbed the President’s invitation to celebrate National Women’s Day at the Presidential Palace on Saturday over what they said was his failure to honor numerous campaign promises.

Journalists Aida Arab and Chahrazed Akacha, Professor Olfa Youssef and the actress Sawsen Maalej were all among those who vocally declined the invitation of President Beji Caid Essebsi to attend the ceremony at Carthage.

Commenting directly to Tunisia Live, Arab said, “I refused to be part of the ceremony. I don’t like such ceremonies filled with hypocrisy and lies. The country is in a state of a crisis and I don’t see why I should celebrate.”

Olfa Youssef also posted her reasons for declining the President’s invitation on her Facebook page, citing the betrayal of numerous campaign promises, his alliance with those she perceived as opposing the legal equality of women, as well as widespread corruption across public life. Youssef told Tunisia Live her absence was a protest against, “obscurantist thought’ and, (a symbol of) hope for a better future.”

Other prominent women’s campaigners, such as journalist, Hager Ben Chihk Ahmed used the snub to highlight both the extensive nature of violence against women, as well as the unemployment that many find themselves trapped within, (according to Ben Chihk Ahmed, 22.2 percent of women are unemployed compared to 12.2 percent of men). “You let down the million women who voted for you…the Revolution of women will take place soon.” She added

Imene Salah Boukhari also declined  the President’s invitation, citing the administration’s failure to honor election promises and the humiliation of the Tunisian women to whom he owes his residence in Carthage.

However, attendees of the ceremony which was hosted by the President along with Minister of Women, Family and Children, Samira Merhi Friaa, were writer and human rights activist, Souhir Belhassen, journalists, Sophie Besais, Myriam Belkhadi and Amel Grami, Dora Bouchoucha and Leila Bouzid, film producers, Dorra Bouchoucha and Laila Bouzid, film produers.

Honored during the ceremony Zina Kaabi, a professor in mathematics who is currently working as a sheep farmer and 83 year old, Salha Ashour, the first Tunisian woman to work as a boat’s Captain. The President also honored Nour Quamar, the Ambassador of Childhood and Peace.

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