Demonstrations broke out in Sebela in the Sidi Bouzid governorate of Tunisia following the death of at least 15 women agricultural workers in an accident on April 26. The women were killed when the crowded pick-up van in which they were being transported to a farm crashed into a lorry. At least 20 women were seriously injured in the accident, and some of them are in a critical condition.
Speaking to Peoples Dispatch, Khmais Bouguerra of the Workers Party said that major political parties and trade unions, including the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), had participated in a strike on April 29 in the region. A huge demonstration was also held in the city of Sidi Bouzid. The protesters condemned the government’s neglect of the safety of the workers. Agricultural workers in the Sidi Bouzid region, the birthplace of the 2011 Tunisian revolution, lead a precarious life, with no proper means of transport, compensation in case of accidents, or free medical care.
A number of similar accidents have taken place in the past. The laborers, most of whom are women, are transported in crowded vehicles. The Sidi Bouzid region is one of the most fertile in the country and women make up the bulk of the workers in the fields. Bouguerra pointed out that the women work under very difficult conditions and earn much less than men. However, many of them continue to work under such conditions as they are the only wage earners of the family.
Bouguerra added that the Sidi Bouzid region is the most neglected in Tunisia despite its being rich in agriculture. “Both during the Zine El Abidine Ben Ali regime and after the revolution, the government has utterly ignored the region. There have been political changes and conflict but no economic transformation has happened,” he added.
Two demonstrations have already taken place in the Sidi Bouzid region, and media reports indicate more protests may happen in the coming days.