Tunisians demand more women in senior public roles

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Tunisia's minister for women urged authorities Friday to promote women to top civil service jobs after a study showed that few women reach the most senior positions.

Just 37 percent of Tunisia's 630,000 civil servants are women, said Khaoula Labidi, who coordinated the study, a joint French-funded project by the country's presidency and UN Women.

She said the number of women in senior posts is "very high compared to other countries in North Africa and the Middle East", but added that men hold three quarters of prestigious, better-paid "director general" positions.

Labidi said women who reached medium-level positions faced a "glass ceiling" preventing them from advancing further.

"We want to pierce this glass ceiling to allow competent women -- and there are many -- to access these high-level positions," she said.

Women's minister Naziha Labidi urged the authorities "to do everything so these women can reach decision-making positions", adding that a strategy had been developed to put women on a par with men in such roles by 2020.

Tunisia is seen as a pioneer in the Arab world in terms of women's rights, adopting a law in 1956 which granted rights to women and abolished polygamy.

This summer, parliament also passed a law to combat violence against women.

But Tunisian society remains deeply divided between conservatives and social liberals.

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