Earlier this week, Tunisia's first freely elected president Beji Caed Essibsi died at the age of 92 leaving behind a legacy of fights for democracy and women's rights.

Essibsi won Tunisia's first free elections in 2014, three years after former autocratic president Zine el-Abedine Ben Ali was ousted. During his time as president, the democratically elected leader made landmark changes in the country especially in the arena of women's rights. 

From the moment he took his oath, Essibsi focused on championing the causes of his countrywomen. "The state is obliged to achieve full equality between women and men and to ensure equal opportunities for all responsibilities, as stipulated in Article 46 of the national constitution," he said in 2017 during a speech marking International Women's Day.

Though Tunisia has long granted women their right to take part in politics, during Essibsi's term, a record number of female MPs held seats in the country's parliament. In 2017, 73 women were part of the country's parliament, the highest female representation in any Arab country.

The late president made it clear that women and men should be equal on all levels and had worked hard to pass groundbreaking legislation to ensure it materializes. 

Under Essibsi's guidance, the Tunisian parliament passed a law that protects women against violence

In 2017, the country's parliament passed a bill introducing new criminal provisions and increasing penalties for multiple violations against women, including sexual harassment and discrimination. 

The move came after years of campaigning by local women's rights organizations. Human Rights Watch described the legislation as a "landmark step for women's rights."

Under the law, fines are handed out to employers who intentionally discriminate against women in pay. It also criminalizes the employment of underage girls and boys as domestic workers. 

The late president helped lift a law that banned Muslim women from marrying outside of their faith

In 2017, Essibsi urged the country's prime minister and minister of justice to repeal article No 73 — a 1973 decree which prohibits Tunisian Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men. 

The president argued that the law - which prohibits women-only from engaging in interfaith relationships - is an "obstacle to the freedom to choose one's spouse."

Just a month after the late president first spoke out on the issue, the Tunisian government lifted the decades-old ban that had been in place. 

He pushed for equal inheritance rights for men and women

Essibsi took a pivotal stance on women's rights when he called for equal inheritance between the sexes.  

According to Islamic law, women inherit half of what their brothers receive. The late president wanted to change that for Tunisian women, assuring the public that his views correlate with the country's Constitution. 

The measure was heavily opposed by conservatives in the country, with thousands demonstrating against it. The proposed law was initially approved by Tunisia's cabinet but has yet to be ratified by the parliament.