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  • Association Tounissiet
  • Translated and edited by miriam cooke and Frances Hasso

In May 2011 twenty women of different profiles, including academics, housewives, lawyers, and engineers, established the Association Tounissiet in Tunis. We met two months after the revolution to help establish democracy in the new Tunisia. Our aim was to work on behalf of the rights of women that have long been suppressed. The situation of women scarcely corresponds to the legal texts in Tunisia, which hid the reality on the ground. The association has nineteen core members who spearhead activities and projects and participate in local and national demonstrations. Tounissiet also cooperates with several partner organizations across the country, including in Nabeul, Jendouba, Sousse, Gabes, Sfax, Tataouin, and Sidi Bouzid. These associations are often involved in various Tounissiet activities in Tunis and the region.

Before the revolution women were the first victims of the dictatorship. They were deprived of the basic rights of expression, freedom, and equality and of participation in civil society and political domains. Only women of certain socioeconomic or political profiles could actively participate in public life, including associations, government, and public- or private-sector decision-making positions. Tounissiet is an apolitical organization that aims to promote the roles of Tunisian women without distinction among them. Our slogan is “Tounissiet pour les Tounissiets” (Tounissiet for all Tunisian women).

The mission and focus of the association today are to promote the values of citizenship among women; support female leadership and encourage women to play an active role in decision making; identify the key concerns of rural women and propose concrete solutions; and be the voice for women victims of oppression. The goal of our initiative Promoting Women’s Rights, which has been funded for the past three years, is to empower rural and urban women to participate in local and national decision making. The goal of our Women’s Leadership Academy, funded by [End Page 365] the United Nations Development Programme, is to prepare qualified women to run for legislative and municipal offices. The regional project Heya [She], to Support Women Leaders, which collaborates with five other associations in Tunisia, also has partners in Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Yemen. The goal of this three-year project (concluding in 2016) is to increase women’s active participation in public spaces throughout the Middle East and North Africa by assuring durable and fair changes for men and women and the inclusion of vulnerable and marginalized women.

The postrevolutionary context in Tunisia has renewed a rich and diversified feminist dynamic. Tounissiet works alongside other associations with years of experience. One challenge is to maintain and promote our position in a very active civil society by playing a central role in the establishment of the rule of law. Tounissiet will have to follow the process of democratic transition by developing legal projects that reinforce the principle of gender equality in the new constitution. Tounissiet must strengthen its legal capacities to propose laws and to focus on strategies of effective litigation.

Another major challenge is to assure the rehabilitation of victimized women and ensure that the transitional justice process pays attention to the specific needs of women. Since 2012 Tounissiet has defended women who are victims of direct and indirect violence. We have called for a women’s committee in the Truth and Dignity Commission, and we accompany women throughout the trial and support their struggles for the truth.

In conclusion, we have to work hard to strengthen the capacities of rural and urban women to ensure the continued active participation of women. A key challenge that underlies all of our projects is to help qualified women gain decision-making and leadership positions. We believe that Tunisian women are well-placed legally and juristically in this regard compared to many other countries, including Western ones. This is mainly due to the personal status code issued on August 13, 1956, by a decree of the bey (the monarchy was abolished in July 1957). The constituent assembly adopted a new constitution in 2014, after the Tunisian Revolution in 2011. Article 21 of the constitution states the equality of citizens before the law without discrimination. Article 34 requires the state to ensure the representation...


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