In December 2010, Mohamed Bouazizi, a 23-year-old market vendor in Tunisia, self-immolated to protest deep-seated government corruption that made it impossible for him to earn a living. Following his desperate action, Tunisian women helped spur protests and end autocratic regimes in Tunisia and throughout the Arabic-speaking world. Today, Tunisian women remain in the forefront of ensuring democratic change in their country during the difficult years of government transition.
The 2012 George Meany-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award will honor the Tunisian General Union of Labor (UGTT) and the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU)—two unions whose struggles over the past year are emblematic of labor’s role in the Arab uprisings, the AFL-CIO Executive Council announced at its annual winter meeting in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
The AFL-CIO Executive Council today praised the role workers and independent trade unions are playing in the popular mobilizations against corrupt, oppressive regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
After decades of being denied basic human and workers’ rights, Tunisians are now openly expressing their desire for those rights, says Tunisian activist Jamel Bettaieb. The teacher and trade unionist received the 2011 Democracy Award from the National Endowment for Democracy in a Capitol Hill ceremony yesterday.
The global union movement is reaffirming its strong support for the General Tunisian Workers’ Union (UGTT) and the Tunisian people in their courageous struggle for equality, social justice, political freedom and democracy.