ILO launches FORTER'ESS project to promote decent work through women-led social and solidarity economy organizations in Tunisia

The FORTER’ESS project is the result of a partnership between Global Affairs Canada and the International Labour Organization (ILO) that works in collaboration with the Tunisian Government and social partners to strengthen the resilience of women-led Social and Solidarity Economy Organizations (SSEOs) affected by COVID-19.

Press release | 08 March 2021
With nearly US$ 1.4 million in support from Global Affairs Canada (GAC), the two-year project will work with women-led SSEOs in two disadvantaged regions of Tunisia. This support will focus on improving workplace protections and the working conditions of women entrepreneurs and workers in women-led SSEOs to counteract the social, economic and health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. FORTER’ESS will also contribute to establishing an inclusive and equitable Social and solidarity economy (SSE) ecosystem in Tunisia that encourages women’s further participation in the sector.

A vital component of the socio-economic recovery post pandemic is the provision of support and assistance to SMEs to ensure their resilience and business continuity. This support should also be extended to the SSE organizations for the important role they play towards ensuring a fairer and more inclusive economy."

Ms Rania Bikhazi, Director of ILO Country Office for Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia
More concretely, the project will benefit 200 women directly, working with 20 women-led SSEOs, the majority of which are less than three years old and have not yet reached a stage of development that would enable them to withstand crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to providing management and leadership training, FORTER’ESS will work with each participating organization to design customised resilience and development plans that focus on making these businesses more sustainable and more resilient to external shocks like the pandemic.

The majority of women's SSEOs are located in rural areas and consist mainly of agricultural, fisheries development groups (GDAPs), cooperatives, and solidarity enterprises, and agricultural services mutual societies (SMSAs). They are mostly active in agriculture, primary processing of agricultural products, aromatic and medicinal plants, alternative tourism and handicrafts.

Canada is proud to support the resilience of women-led Social and Solidarity Economy Organizations affected by COVID-19. Strengthening the social and solidarity economy is an efficient way to generate decent jobs, bring down barriers to women’s economic empowerment and foster women’s entrepreneurship in order to achieve a more inclusive and sustainable economic recovery in Tunisia."

Patrice Cousineau, Canadian Ambassador to Tunisia
Like many countries, Tunisia has been obliged to implement public health measures that have had a negative impact on economic participation. Responding to this reality, FORTER’ESS aims at preserving and building on the existing collaboration between the Government of Tunisia and the ILO to promote the SSE to enhance socio-economic inclusion – particularly that of women. Since its introduction in 2016, this approach has focused on reducing poverty, socio-economic disparities and unemployment, especially among young women and men. Within the context of FORTER’ESS, the ILO will be able to support SSEOs to ensure that the progress made in recent years is not lost and that SSEO members are better equipped for current and future challenges.