WoMoz in Tunisia



(Translation by Tom Leaman of the French version of this post)

Delphine and I had the chance to go in Tunisia for 3 days, in january. It was marvellous! We gave a talk about WoMoz… Here is my report which have been translated from French by Tom Leaman (thanks!).

This conference was, originally, the main reason for me being in Tunisia. I spent nearly 6 months exchanging e-mails with Melek Jebnoun and I discovered a fantastic girl who really loves WoMoz.

At Mozcamp Berlin, in November, Delphine and I met Sofien in the flesh which allowed us to arrange our place and the WoMoz conference. And here we are, this Friday the 20th of January 2012, Melek, Marwa, Sahar… and many other computer science students.

Before starting our presentation, we realised with Delphine that it was quite inapropriate for Tunisia. Indeed, part of our conference consists of pointing out the lack of women in computer science schools. But if this is true in France, it’s not the case in Tunisia: we had as many women in front of us as men… We therefore decided to only talk for 15 minutes and devote the rest of our time to discussion with the people there. To understand this difference and to see what WoMoz can give to others.

Despite this difference, the under-lying humour at the conference, the denounced stereotypes, have been apreciated. We felt that these stereotypes had no boundaries, even if they manifest themselves differently. In Tunisia, it’s clear that women are well accepted in computer education. And even beyond, since the students told us that once they have their diploma in their pockets, they will find the same kind of work as men, and with equal pay! Again, this is not the case in France…

BUT. Trolls also exist in Tunisia, and we were fortunate to have one. A brave boy spoke certain thoughts out loud where others might whisper. Speaking of differences between men and women, and questioning the necessity to make things happen.

Students in the room explained to us that the reason for their number was because the computer schools are seen as being reserved for the elite in Tunisia: if you are good in class, you go… Hence this male/female parity: all the good people in class go to study computer science, without distinction of sex. But what the Troll said was that he still found a difference: men are more passionate about free software than women. In schools, he said, there are more men who run Linux than women. The students agreed with this observation. However, they did not agree that it was simply because they were women, as this boy did.

The difference in passion wrt free software could come, after reflection, from unequal access to computers before girls get to computer schools. Maybe they are good in class, but not as familiar, like their brother for example, with using computers, development etc. And then there is social pressure: if women can integrate into computer schools, work… they are women who must also look after the house, take care of the children etc. Of course, the girls we met had character and, in this case, passionate about free software. But not all women have the courage to break the prejudices, or families (or boyfriend ;-)) that they support… And then computers will not be their way to earn a living.

What matters though, is exactly that passion shown by Malek, Sahar, Marwa and the others: because it is contagious! And it proves that it is not reserved for the men! Our new WoMoz members agreed that they would work on it: to transmit their love of free software to their friends, other students etc. Now, Delphine, myself and the other members of WoMoz will be there to support them!

I love you girls! You rock!

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6 responses

  1. Lucy wrote on :

    I’m curious, did you ask the women in your presentation why they don’t use linux? Perhaps they didn’t try using it before, but they’re at school for computers and obviously aware of linux to know that more males run it.

    I don’t think it’s worth calling someone a Troll for making an obvious (though not necessarily correct) conclusion from that observation. I’d rather this post spent a bit more time shedding light on how we can be more like Tunisia in our equality.

  2. Melek wrote on :

    Hi Lucy :) I have to say it your comment attracted my attention specially I can say I am concerned with the subject!! You know when I talked to Claire and Delphine to have a womoz session here in Tunisia I honestly was a bit afraid about what’s gonna be the reactions!! talking about women and IT here isn’t a common subject because we a big number of women in this area but it’s like !!

  3. Melek wrote on :

    oup sorry sent 😀 * area but it’s like “okey we have women in this area and no plus!!” it’s like men don’t want to talk more about it and have more attention about this subject!
    And what’s more important is: Girls when they did the presentation they really change it because they didn’t expect to have a lot of girls and to see the reality of things hre in Tunisia.
    Yes girls are present in IT BUT they don’t do it really because they like it, and girls (claire and delphine) asked the right questions about that!! They engaged an amazing discussion about that and I think the famous reaction of the boy the famous troll was really surprising for all of us!!
    Honestly for only 24 in Tunisia they really raised very important issues that even me didn’t ask myself before!!
    The girls community here is sure important but we have to make it more aware about what they did; This pass by using more linux in schools and universities (because we don’t use it that much unfortunetly!!) and maybe as we concluded after a passionating debate in the event with students and trolls 😀 by having the womoz community in Tunisia more active before the academis choices in high school!!

  4. Chaasof wrote on :

    well I know I’m not a Womoz: D but I want to explain a few things!
    In Tunisia, all schools are equipped with PCs that run under windows, since the contracts signed by microsoft with governement !!
    besides, I discovered linux at university (only in universities and specially in computer courses of Linux)
    so likely, women don’t do additional efforts to switch to Linux and change habits of 8 or 7 years on Windows (same case for some males like me :D)
    I stand just to explain! that’s all: D

    Chaasof :*

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  6. sabrina wrote on :