Tunisia: COVID-19 Increases Vulnerability of Rural Women
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Tunisian women in rural areas have played a vital role in maintaining food security during the coronavirus pandemic but continue to suffer exploitation and exclusion. While their working conditions are already known for being dire, the public health crisis has compounded their economic and social insecurity. This paper discusses the systemic exploitative treatment of female agricultural workers, the state’s inability so far to protect them, and how local NGOs are helping to improve their lives. While Tunisia is often portrayed as a pioneer of women’s rights in the MENA region, women in rural areas remain socially and economically marginalized. They are over-represented among agricultural workers and small traders, where they are generally paid starkly low wages, carry out exhausting physical work, lack social protection, and have very limited access to quality health facilities. Facing clear gender disparities, they have unequal access to income and economic opportunities, and the COVID-19 outbreak has further exacerbated these inequalities, rendering agricultural women particularly vulnerable to the pandemic.