tunisian povertyTunisia stands as the only Arabian country to have undergone democratization as a result of the Arab Spring protests that shook the region in the 2010s. Fueled by widespread Tunisian poverty and a low standard of living, alongside many other factors, the nearly month-long campaign of civil disobedience led to the ousting of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. However, the installation of a functioning democracy has yet to alleviate all of the issues that Tunisians faced pre-revolution.

The Jasmine Revolution

In December of 2010, Mohammed Bouazizi, a Sidi Bouzid fruit vendor whose goods had recently been confiscated by local authorities, self-immolated outside of the local governor’s office. His sentiments were echoed amongst many citizens frustrated with Tunisian poverty, corruption and suppression of freedoms. Leading up to the revolution, an increasing number of middle-class citizens expressed dissatisfaction with their standards of living. Despite an approximate 7% increase in GDP per capita from 2008 to 2010, the percentage of the country’s middle class that rated themselves satisfied with their current and future prospects dropped from 24% to 14%. Due to other factors such as government corruption, something that is not accurately reflected by metrics like GDP, Tunisians felt as if they had little to gain from their country’s economic growth. As a result of these factors, many Tunisians took to the streets soon after Bouazizi’s act of defiance.

As riots escalated, with protestors dying under live fire from police, President Ben Ali appeared on national television and made some concessions, including a reduction in food prices and in restrictions on internet usage. However, these remarks proved too little, and the protests continued. By Jan. 14 2011, state media reported the dissolution of the Ben Ali regime and the establishment of legislative elections. As unrest continued, Ben Ali fled the country. While new leadership took charge of the newly reformed government, protests continued, as much of this new leadership consisted of members of Ben Ali’s Democratic Constitutional Rally. Eventually, Mohammed Ghannouchi, the acting prime minister, announced the posting of several figures from other parties in the interim government. He also reemphasized the new government’s pledged efforts to maintain economic prosperity and freer speech. Eventually, the Democratic Constitutional Rally was dissolved in the face of continued protests over the inclusion of politicians from the old regime. These reforms within the Tunisian government stand as one of the major catalysts for the Arab Spring protests, a series of demonstrations across the Arab world that demanded alterations to many standing regimes.

Fundamental Changes in Tunisian Poverty?

While the Tunisian government changed drastically in the face of this civil uprising, Tunisian citizens still face some of the issues that plagued them before. Socially, there has been continued strife between Islamism and secularism in the country, with violence spreading throughout the country in 2012 over the interaction of religion and government. While secular parties have slightly outpaced Islamist parties, there have been problems with fundamentalist violence both domestically and abroad. Tunisians have joined terrorist organizations such as ISIS in Syria, Iraq and Lybia, making up large percentages of their foreign recruits. Additionally, terrorist groups have staged attacks on Tunisian soil, attacking institutions such as museums and resorts.

Economic troubles have also challenged Tunisians. Since 2011, nearly 100,000 highly skilled workers and professionals have left the country. Despite the changes in government, unemployment still stands as a grave issue. Nearly 23% of university graduates were unemployed right before the onset of the revolution. This number has since risen to 29%. Government corruption and protracted bureaucracy have done less than initially desired in helping the Tunisian middle and lower classes. Unfortunately, some Tunisians have started to doubt the effectiveness of the new government, with only 46% saying that “democracy is preferable to any other kind of government” in 2018, dropping from 71% in 2013. However, there has been some support from the international community in alleviating these economic issues.

The International Labour Organization

A wing of the United Nations, the International Labour Organization, has devoted resources toward alleviating Tunisian poverty and some other societal issues currently facing Tunisians. Some initiatives include construction projects, such as a covered market in Sidi Bouzid. This provides vendors with more favorable conditions to sell their goods while providing construction workers with employment. In Regueb, a village near Sidi Bouzid, the organization has implemented the Programme to Support the Development of Underprivileged Areas, providing around 100 individuals with agricultural skills. Mahmoud Ben Romdhane, the Tunisian Minister of Social Affairs, has endorsed the collaboration of local organizations and the International Labour Organization in improving the conditions of Tunisian citizens.

Tunisians face many challenges in the near future in alleviating the societal and economic issues that stand before the country. However, the success of Tunisians in standing for a reformed government has inspired generations across the world. With support from the international community and dedication within the country, a bright future may lie ahead in regard to Tunisian poverty and political stability.

Samuel Levine
Photo: Flickr

Tunisian OasesTunisia is home to over 200 oases located across the country’s southern governorates. These oases account for more than 40,000 hectares of agriculturally productive land and house 10% of the country’s population. In Southern Tunisia, oases provide food security and employment for local populations. In addition, they serve as trade centers that connect remote regions. However, several challenges threaten the biodiversity of Tunisian oases and the livelihood of residents. Rapid urbanization and monoculture farming have placed tremendous pressure on water resources and resulted in land degradation. As agricultural productivity decreases, young people migrate to the cities in search of better employment opportunities. The lack of proper management has also led many areas to fall into a state of neglect.

The Oases Ecosystems and Livelihoods Project

In 2014, the World Bank implemented the Oases Ecosystems and Livelihoods Project, better known by its French acronym GDEO. It is aimed at improving sustainable natural resources management and conserving the biodiversity of selected oases in southern Tunisia. Co-funded by the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility, the project’s total cost was estimated at 170.50 million USD. The initiative achieved stellar success. Various microprojects restored crucial irrigation systems, renewed water cycles and provided jobs for local residents. The number of beneficiaries totaled at 23,257, exceeding the initial target of 18,000.

Environmental Impact

Tunisian oases form a unique ecosystem ideal for the flourishing of diverse flora and fauna. This impressive biodiversity was endangered by monoculture practices on date farms. The practices used up natural water supplies and caused the loss of unique plant species and varieties. To remedy these harms, the GDEO implemented a total of 60 micro-projects that helped renovate irrigation infrastructure and protect the area against wild boars. They also helped to enforce pest management and diversify crop cultivation by introducing palm and fruit trees. Crop diversification significantly reduced land degradation, which contributed to sustaining the region’s ecosystems.

Furthermore, another key component of the plan is improving the management of oasis natural resources to protect against flooding and sand invasion. An additional component is scaling up sustainable land and water management (SLWM) practices to enhance agricultural productivity. As a result, SLWM practices transformed 900 hectares of land, exceeding the original target of 700 hectares.

Support for Farmers

The provision of training and tools to farmers has increased crop yields and sustained farmers’ livelihoods. They include introducing mechanical plows and organic fertilizers. In addition, farmers receive training on how to farm more efficiently through the implementation of “3-state agriculture.” This is a method of production that pays off with higher crop diversity and higher production within a limited space. More than 200 people participated in training programs, and 5056 farmers ended up adopting SLWM practices. Equipped with the right skills and tools, more and more young farmers now choose to stay and work in the oases. With knowledge of new farming techniques, farmers can profit more from their work while also being mindful of the ecosystem and natural resources.

Economic Empowerment

Most importantly, oasis renewal and rehabilitation enables local residents to earn a living through beneficial and profitable engagement with the local region. This offers an alternative to migration to urban centers. Community-based projects support a variety of farming and non-farming activities. These activities include craftsmanship, ovine fattening activities and beekeeping as well as cultural heritage conservation and ecotourism. “Jobs have been created–about half of them for women and youth,” said Taoufiq Bennouna, World Bank Senior Natural Resources Management Specialist. In total, more than 226 micro-projects focused on SLWM, conservation, artisanship and ecotourism development have resulted in 735 direct jobs and improved income.

 

Overall, the World Bank’s Tunisian Oases Ecosystems and Livelihoods Project has brought new life to Tunisian oases by preserving their diverse ecosystems and helping farmers maintain their livelihoods.

– Alice Nguyen
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in TunisiaThe North African country of Tunisia is sandwiched by two relatively unstable nations, Algeria and Libya. However, Tunisia has had consistent development in human wellbeing for the past couple of decades, ranking among the best nations in Africa. In part, this success can be attributed to Tunisia’s relatively strong healthcare system. According to a World Health Organization report, Tunisia possesses a “national health strategic plan” as well as a relatively high life expectancy at 75 years. Healthcare in Tunisia is a promising sign that the country can adequately support its population and promote longer, healthier lives for its citizens. Here are six facts about healthcare in Tunisia.

6 Facts About Healthcare in Tunisia

  1. More than 90% of the population is covered by health insurance. While some citizens use private insurance, others are covered by programs in place to assist the most disadvantaged in society. However, Tunisia still lacks truly universal coverage. One of the top complaints about healthcare in Tunisia is gaps in payment for important medical procedures, which can burden families.
  2. Tunisia’s 2014 constitution granted healthcare as a human right. The government is still working to make this a reality and provide universal, effective healthcare in Tunisia. Specifically, the government is trying to improve the dilapidated health infrastructure in the south of the country. This manifested in a 9% increase in the healthcare budget in 2016, which went toward improving infrastructure in remote areas.
  3. Private healthcare in Tunisia is booming. In recent years, before the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of private clinics built in the country was expected to surge. Seventy-five new facilities are set to be completed by 2025, doubling the number of hospital beds in the country. These improvements should help make access to quality healthcare more readily accessible to the general population.
  4. Tunisia successfully combated many diseases in the past. Most importantly, Tunisia has been able to eradicate and control many deadly diseases that put a strain on its healthcare system. Malaria, polio and schistosomiasis are well under control. In addition, Tunisia’s healthcare system has worked to address HIV/AIDS.
  5. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Tunisia has done relatively well. Sitting at 1,327 confirmed cases and 50 deaths as of July 2020, the country is positioned to recover economically from the virus, which is devastating in other parts of the world. Though it is still early in the pandemic, it appears that the healthcare system in Tunisia was able to absorb the influx of cases in order to slow the death rate.
  6. Robust preventative measures enabled Tunisia’s positive response to COVID-19. Seeing the potential for a rise in cases early on, the government, as advised by healthcare experts, quickly went into a rigorous lockdown that lasted for months. This was especially difficult considering that tourism accounts for 10% of the country’s GDP. According to a WHO spokesman, a strong sense of community and respect for the lockdown measures eased the country’s caseload and death toll. Because the Tunisian population was willing to make sacrifices for the broader community, they are now in a comparatively better place than some other nations around the world.

Healthcare is a critical issue for any nation. While there is always room for improvement, Tunisia has succeeded in using its available resources to ensure medical coverage for its people.

Zak Schneider
Photo: Pixabay

Education in Tunisia

Tunisia is a small country in Northern Africa with a population of 11.5 million people. Both Arabic and French play a large role in Tunisian culture and both are considered primary languages of instruction in schools. Education in Tunisia is an important part of society and is compulsory until the age of 16. The following seven facts about education in Tunisia further illuminate the country’s challenges and initiatives to improve the current system and community.

Seven Facts about Education in Tunisia

  1. While Tunisia’s education is influenced by the French system, an emphasis on Arabic language and culture is prioritized within schools. After gaining independence from France in 1956, Tunisian education has seen significant Arabization since the 1970s. In recent years, however, there has been yet another cultural shift marked by the demand for English speakers within the workplace. As a result, the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research partnered with the British council in 2016 to offer English speaking certificates within their Tunisian universities in order to increase employability for Tunisians at home and abroad.
  2. Schools in Tunisia are overseen by the Tunisian Ministry of Education and Training. There are three main levels of schooling: basic, secondary and higher education. In 1991, the Tunisian government passed the New Education Act which lengthened the duration of the basic and secondary levels to 13 years.
  3. The Tunisian government has also significantly invested in a pre-primary level of education intended for children from ages 3-5. These exist in two forms: traditional kindergartens and kouttabs, which are supervised by the Ministry of Women, Family and Childhood and the Ministry of Religious Affairs, respectively. In traditional kindergartens, children follow a standard curriculum. In contrast, kouttabs, the educational focus is on religion. From 1987 to 2007, the number of kouttabs has nearly tripled from 278 to 961. Though there is no data comparing the enrollment between kindergartens and kouttabs, this increase in the number of kouttabs does reveal higher levels of enrollment today.
  4. According to UNESCO, Tunisia spends about 6.2 percent of its GDP on education. Many modern technologies used in Tunisian classrooms today are funded by major organizations such as the World Bank, Microsoft and Apple. This has seen an especially significant impact at the University of Tunis: 20 percent of its courses have been offered online in the last 15 years. This has also increased the number of students able to complete their education by allowing them to work part-time while earning their degrees, an impactful solution in addressing Tunisan educational reforms.
  5. The government’s recent initiatives to improve the education system after independence can be seen in the discrepancies between the older and younger Tunisian generations. According to UNESCO, the literacy rate between 15-24-year-olds was 96.1 percent in comparison to 39.77 percent of those 65 and older as of 2014. To address this issue, the National Adult Education Programme was created in 2000. In the first three years of its existence, the program grew from 107,000 participants to 165,000.
  6. In 2016, the Tunisian government released the Strategic Plan for the Education Sector, detailing intended reforms spanning the next four years. The plan identifies its primary goal: reducing dropout rates to be addressed by “improving teacher training, upgrade curricula and infrastructure, as well as… enhance [the] framework for private sector partnerships.”
  7. According to UNESCO, the education rate between young men and women in Tunisia is almost equal: In 2007, 96.7 percent of girls and 95.5 percent of boys were recorded to be in school. That being said, however, traditional Tunisian cultural norms have heavily influenced the employability of educated women who have a harder time finding work than their lesser-educated counterparts. The World Bank reports that “the unemployment rate has remained around 15.5 percent and is particularly high among women (22.8 percent), graduates (29.4 percent) and in poor regions.”

The World Bank estimates that Tunisia’s economy is projected to grow 4 percent in the next year, which it states is “contingent on the completion of pressing reforms to improve the investment climate and ensure social stability.” These seven facts about education in Tunisia highlight these issues, and ensuring that they are addressed, Tunisia is sure to flourish for years to come.

– Jordan Powell
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Tunisia
Tunisia, a small North African country, is often seen as a success story of the Arab uprisings after making strides towards consolidating its democracy. However, the economic woes that triggered the 2011 revolts have yet to be addressed and some citizens are unable to access sufficient nutrients as a result. These top 10 facts about hunger in Tunisia outline the issues that the country faces today in regards to food insecurity.

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Tunisia

  1. There are a handful of factors that negatively impact Tunisia’s most vulnerable citizens’ access to a nutritional, balanced diet. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), those include a stagnant economy, high unemployment rates, regional disparities and dependence on cereal imports. Approximately 28 percent of the country’s rural-dwelling citizens are poor, coming out to around one million people.
  2. Due to the arid, dry nature of Tunisia’s location, water scarcity is a major roadblock when it comes to the country’s agricultural production. The International Development Research Centre reports that the country must import most of its basic foods and all of its livestock feed and focus its own agricultural efforts on high-value crops for export. Financial, technical and climate conditions are all major factors that impede an increase in domestic food production. Because of these conditions, Tunisia is heavily dependent on foreign trade for food.
  3. Food waste is a serious problem. Bread is the most wasted product with around 16 percent going uneaten. The Tunisian National Institute for Consumption states that food waste represents around 5 percent of food expenditures per year, coming out to the equivalent of about $197 million. The average family loses $7 on food waste per month.
  4. Tunisians most vulnerable to facing hunger are those living in rural areas, in the Central West and North West regions, as well as women and children. Poverty rates exceed 32 percent in the country’s Central West and North West regions. In addition, low-income rural households headed by women are especially at risk of hunger. Although physical access to food is virtually guaranteed nation-wide, economic barriers, such as price inflation and unemployment, pose a serious threat in achieving it.
  5. Hunger in Tunisia has led to some of its citizens facing a plethora of nutritional ailments. The most prominent of those include deficiencies in vitamins, minerals and obesity. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reports that anemia, or iron deficiency, was estimated at 31.2 percent for women of reproductive age (15-49) in 2016. Rates of this disorder in this demographic have been steadily increasing since 2010. According to the FAO, approximately 27.3 percent of the country’s adult population (over 18) was considered obese in 2016. This number is over 10 percent higher than in 2000.
  6. With a score of 7.9 out of 50, Tunisia has a low level of hunger according to the 2018 Global Hunger Index (GHI), and this number continues to trend downwards. In other words, fewer and fewer Tunisians go hungry each year. This an improvement from moderate levels of hunger recorded in 2000 when Tunisia had a score of 10.7. In 2018, the country was ranked 28th out of 119 qualifying countries. The GHI score is calculated based on four indicators: undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting and child mortality. As the score has improved over the last two decades, this indicates that these factors have been decreasing in frequency and that hunger in Tunisia is improving.
  7. Prevalence of stunting in children under the age of 5 has decreased by 5.7 percent since the year 2000 according. Currently, 10.9 percent of children of this category is considered to have stunted growth, meaning that their growth is below normal due to prolonged malnutrition. While the percentage of children affected has fallen since 2000, it is slowly on the incline, rising from 9 percent in 2005 to 10.9 percent last year.
  8. The mortality rate for children under the age of 5 is decreasing. Death is the most serious consequence of hunger, and children are the most vulnerable group. However, the percentage of children losing their lives before their fifth birthdays has more than halved since 2000, dropping from 3.4 percent to just 1.4 percent in 2018.
  9. Government-run National School Meals Programs to combat hunger in Tunisia reach approximately 260,000 children per month. Tunisia’s investment in school meals that reaches 125,000 girls and 135,000 boys in around 2,500 schools is fully funded by the government and totaled the equivalent of $13.2 million in the 2014/15 school year. The Tunisian government has also allocated the equivalent of $1.7 million for the construction and equipment of a pilot central kitchen and a first School Food Bank hub.
  10. Over the past two decades, Tunisian agriculture has made significant progress. The most notable improvements are achieving self-sufficiency in products such as milk, meat, fruit and vegetables, limiting import dependence and strengthening the country’s presence in foreign markets as a result of the good quality-price ratio of its products.

Overall, as demonstrated by these top 10 facts about hunger in Tunisia, the situation in the country is improving. Fewer people are, according to the data, going without food every year, and this trend shows no sign of stopping. The efforts today appear to be more concentrated on the nutritional density of food available than its access. While no situation is perfect, Tunisia has made and is still making strides towards minimizing food insecurity within its borders.

– Chelsey Crowne
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Tunisia
While there is still more work to be done in decreasing employment rates and making housing more affordable, the North African country of Tunisia has made significant strides in improving the living conditions for its citizens. Substantial developments have been made in moving towards universal health care and bolstering Tunisia’s education system. In the article below, the top 10 facts about living conditions in Tunisia are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Tunisia

  1. More work still needs to be done in increasing employment rates for youth and women in the country. Youth employment is one of the main issues that Tunisia faces. One solution is to enhance the capacity for job creation in the formal private sector. The unemployment rate of youth aged from 15 to 30 is higher than 30 percent. The unemployment rate for women is even more than this percentage in some areas. The percentage of the labor force with a college degree increased from 10 percent to 16 percent from 2000 to 2010, and this percentage keeps increasing. One issue facing those who are educated is that their quality of education does not meet the skills required for certain jobs.
  2. Some more progress can be made in Tunisia in decreasing the unemployment rate. In Tunisia, the unemployment rate increased from 15.40 percent in the second quarter of 2018 to 15.50 percent in the third quarter of 2018. The overall unemployment rate in Tunisia was 15.36 percent on average from 2005 to 2018. The largest percentage of the unemployment rate was 18.90 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 and the lowest was 12.80 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007.
  3. Some progress has been made in increasing country’s GDP that has helped to ameliorate living conditions in Tunisia. From  2000 to 2014, Tunisia’s GDP increased from $21.47 billion to $47.59 billion. However, in the last few years, GDP decreased, and was at $40.25 billion in 2017.
  4. Significant strides have been made in decreasing poverty and extreme poverty. From 1995 to 2010, Tunisia has drastically reduced poverty from one million to 0.2 million people. From 2000 to 2015, poverty has decreased from 25 percent to 15 percent, respectively. In addition, extreme poverty has decreased to 3 percent in 2015 from 7.5 percent in 2000.
  5. Economic policies were implemented to decrease poverty in the country and they are the main reason why there was a decrease in poverty during periods where there was no economic growth.
  6. More work still needs to be done in making housing more affordable. Some issues households in Tunisia face is inflation and the small number of microfinance for housing, hindering the access to finance. The primary ways the government helps households finance affordable housing is through financial subsidies.
  7. The Ministry of Health governs the public health care system in Tunisia, bolstered by numerous public institutions. There are three levels of care in Tunisia: primary, made up of 81 clinics and 2,091 basic health centers, secondary, made up of 109 district hospitals, and tertiary, made up of 33 regional hospitals and 24 modern specialized centers and teaching hospitals. The public sector is the main health care provider in Tunisia, providing for 87 percent of hospital bed capacity, totaling to 31,936 beds.
  8. There have been substantial developments in Tunisia in moving towards universal health care coverage, which is in part demonstrated by the work of the National Health Insurance Fund. The annual health care spending in 2013 totaled to 7.1 percent of the country’s GDP. Thirty-seven percent of the cost was spent by Tunisian households, 35 percent was spent by the National Health Insurance Fund and 28 percent was spent by the government.
  9. The Tunisian government places a strong emphasis on education. There are three levels of education in Tunisia that are basic education, secondary education and higher education. The government sees the value in education for growing its human resources and has made primary education mandatory and at free of costs.
  10. Due to the decreasing quality of education and high unemployment rates of young graduates, the government is striving to overhaul its education system. After the 2011 revolution that marked the beginning of the Arab Spring, the Government of Tunisia has been endeavoring to make reforms in a Strategic Plan for the Education Sector 2016-2020. The objectives of the five-year plan are strengthening quality standards through teacher training, bolstering curriculum and infrastructure and improving the framework for private sector partnerships.

There has been significant progress in ameliorating the living conditions in Tunisia. While still more strides can and must be made in decreasing employment rates and making housing more affordable, the country has increased its GDP substantially, decreased poverty and extreme poverty as well. With more effort, a bright future is on the horizon for further improving living conditions in Tunisia.

– Daniel McAndrew-Greiner

Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Tunisia
Illiteracy rates and education levels for females in many Arab or Islamic nations are among the lowest in the world. This occurrence is often due to active suppression by theocracies, but 
Tunisia is an oddball in the case of Arab/Islamic countries in terms of the level of girls education. 

Girls’ Education in Tunisia

Tunisia has one of the highest female literacy rates amongst predominantly Islamic countries. In fact, 96.1 percent of females in Tunisia are literate — a statistic unheard of in multiple regions of the world. Girls’ education in Tunisia reflects the openness of the nation as opposed to its regional counterparts, and females within this nation actually rank higher than males. For example, females have a higher school participation rate than males, and girls actually last longer (meaning they drop out less) in primary school than males. Such dedication to academics is promising to not only these girls’ personal well-being, but also to their work and home successes.

These examples of gender equality and female success are rare in Arab and Islamic regions, as much of theocratic culture tends to prefer and adhere to a male-dominated society. In Tunisia, males may have higher enrollment rates than females, but females are either equal or dominant to males in terms of academic performance in school — except for literacy. Even in this respect, there is only a 2 percent difference between the genders, which is again unprecedented in predominantly Islamic countries. 

The Long Game

The high level of female education in Tunisia did not happen overnight. Prior to the 2011 overthrow of the Ben Ali regime, these trends of increases in female education were apparent because the Tunisian government actively took steps to decrease gender inequality to improve their overarching socioeconomic development.

Tunisian women have a higher level of rights than their regional neighbors. Article 21 of the 2014 Tunisian constitution stipulates that: “Male and female citizens are equal in rights and duties. They are equal before the law without any discrimination.” This aspect of gender equality should act as an example for numerous countries across the globe, in both the developed and developing worlds.

Steps for Improvement

This is not to say that Tunisia is a reservoir of egalitarianism. Abuse against women is disturbingly high — 70 percent of women are the victims of abuse in Tunisia. However, much has been done in recent years to attempt to mitigate such occurrences, including a law passed by the Tunisian parliament specifically aimed at reducing levels of abuse against women.

Tunisia is very liberal in terms of girls education, though, and continually makes strides in improving other human rights offenses against girls. Tunisia is learning that educating and empowering females brings a nation numerous benefits and resources otherwise unattainable.

From decreasing poverty, improving the economy and developing a more harmonious society, Tunisia’s prioritization of female education is admirable and bound for success. Tunisia’s future looks much more liberal and altruistic than many of its regional counterparts, and only time will tell if this optimistic hope proves out for the country. 

– Daniel Lehewych
Photo: Google

US Investments Strengthening Education in Tunisia
The United States has invested $100 million in strengthening education in Tunisia, Africa. The project, known as Strengthening Foundations for Learning, is designed to support the government in addressing major challenges in primary education.

What Will the Project Do?

The main goal is to direct resources toward key areas for a transformative impact on student learning. The project will focus on expanding access to quality early childhood education, strengthening literacy and numeracy in the early grades, improving teacher skills and improving school management, accountability and student assessment.

Investment in high-quality early childhood education is one of the most cost-efficient investments in human capital. These investments have been linked to significant improvement in primary education grade promotion, reduction in repetition and dropout rates.

“By investing in education, Tunisia is investing in the future,” says Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, World Bank Country Director for the Maghreb. “Quality basic education is a way of giving children the opportunity to become active participants in the transformation of the societies in which they live, and to contribute to future growth and prosperity.”

Who Will the Project Benefit?

The Strengthening Foundations for Learning Project will improve learning conditions in public preschools and primary schools. Increasing access to public preschool education in selected districts will be a main focus as well as strengthening management practices in education. The project aims to empower school leaders and instructional staff to work collaboratively to raise student achievement by strengthening education in Tunisia.

The direct project beneficiaries include an estimated 1,144,000 students attending public preschools and primary schools. Another 64,000 primary school teachers will benefit from improved opportunities for professional development. Furthermore, 5,360 primary school directors and deputy directors, 615 pedagogical inspectors and 850 pedagogical counselors will benefit from this project.

Tunisia has successfully addressed issues of access to schooling, having achieved universal primary education and gender parity more than two decades ago, but the quality of education has suffered and students need to be supported in developing strong foundational skills,” says Michael Drabble, World Bank Senior Education Specialist and co-Task Team Leader.

What Does Strengthening Education in Tunisia Mean?

There are four core components attached to this project investment for strengthening education in Tunisia:

  1. Improving quality and increasing supply of public preschool education at an estimated total cost of $19.6 million.
  2. Improving learning conditions in public primary schools at an estimated total cost of $46.6 million.
  3. Strengthening management practices in the education sector at an estimated total cost of $32.5 million.
  4. Project Management Support at an estimated total cost of $1.3 million.

“Teachers need access to relevant and well-designed professional development programs to help them adapt new instructional methods to boost learning in the classroom. Well-prepared and committed school leaders are needed to turn around poor performing schools,” says Samira Halabi, World Bank Senior Education Specialist and co-Task Team Leader of the project.

This type of investment will provide unprecedented strengthening of education in Tunisia benefiting thousands of primary education students. Tunisia has a total of 2,199,000 students enrolled in primary and secondary education. Of these students, about 1,047,000, or 48 percent, are enrolled in primary education.

In Tunisia, the primary net enrollment rate is 99 percent and the primary completion rate is 102 percent. Both of these indicators provide a sense of the progress the country is making toward universal primary education.

The United States investment in Strengthening Foundations for Learning is a generous one with only beneficial outcomes. Continuously strengthening education in Tunisia is only going to provide better education and more access so that the country can grow and improve.

– Richard Zarrilli
Photo: Flickr

Improving Women’s Rights in Tunisia
While Tunisia has the most progressive laws on women’s rights in relation to other parts of the Arab world, patriarchal values still persist. In 2010, a study from the Tunisian government revealed that many of the country’s women are sexually, verbally and physically abused. However, improving women’s rights in Tunisia has become an initiative for many organizations.

The U.N.’s Work to Represent Women in Politics

In June 2016, Tunisia’s parliament approved an amendment to ensure a greater representation of women in local politics. Applying to regional and municipal elections, the amendment included a proposal for “horizontal and vertical” gender parity in Article 49 of Tunisia’s electoral law. This also marked the first time that 73 Tunisian female parliamentarians (from different backgrounds, parties and political ideologies) conducted their own lobbying in favor of the horizontal and vertical parity.

“Besides being a first in our region, the adoption of horizontal and vertical parity in electoral law is a timely achievement because it will guarantee effective participation of women in the upcoming decentralization process in Tunisia,” said Leila Rhiwi, the U.N. Women Representative from Maghreb. In March 2016, U.N. Women also began a project with Tunisia’s parliamentarians that would support the implementation of the women’s caucus. This will work toward improving women’s rights in Tunisia by increasing their representation in local and national politics.

Aswat Nissa Training Tunisia’s Women For Political Lives

Many Tunisian women find ways to exercise the power given to them by the country’s progressive laws. Some of these ways include Tunisian women attending political academies that began after the country’s Arab Spring revolution in 2011. In October 2016, the political academy Aswat Nissa was revealed to hold monthly training sessions for Tunisian women who enter political roles.

Aswat Nissa teaches Tunisian women many necessary political skills, including how to debate effectively and draft gender-sensitive budgets. Aswat Nissa enrolled forty Tunisian women in 2016.

“I have visited parliament before, but when you’re an assembly member, it’s something else. You are part of this world,” said Aswat Nissa graduate Karima Tagaz.

Tunisia’s New Law Against Gender-Based Violence

In October 2016, Tunisia’s parliament debated a bill to strengthen legislation on violence against women. The bill would be incorporated into Tunisia’s legislative and government policies, defining gender-based violence, outlawing marital rape and increasing penalties for sexual harassment in the workplace. The bill was approved on July 26, 2017, and served as a landmark step toward improving women’s rights in Tunisia.

“By enacting this new law, the Tunisian authorities have shown a commitment to the rights of women and are setting a standard that many others would do well to follow,” said Amna Guellali, Tunisia’s office director at Human Rights Watch. The new law included requirements to assist Tunisia’s victims of domestic violence, providing them with legal and medical support. Tunisia’s authorities intend to ensure adequate funding and political will to fully place the new law into effect.

A Proposal For Tunisian Women to Share in Inheritance

In January 2018, the Committee on Individual Freedoms and Equality (CIFE) planned a proposal for Tunisia’s women to share in men’s inheritance and pass their family name onto their children.

“Tunisia is once again pioneering and irreversibly moving toward advancement,” Bochra Bel Haj Hmida, CIFE’s chairwoman, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “All discriminatory laws in the family space and public space are included in the commission’s tasks.”

CIFE’s proposed bill will also ban dowries, allowing Tunisia’s men and women to share their roles as head of the household. CIFE planned to present its recommendations to Tunisia’s president on Feb. 20, 2018, but requested a postponement until after municipal elections on May 6. The news site ANSAmed said that CIFE did not want its proposal to become an issue of electoral tension.

Tunisia’s parliament, the U.N. and CIFE have made much progress in strengthening the representation of Tunisia’s women in politics and protecting their freedom. Many groups will continue working toward improving women’s rights in Tunisia.

– Rhondjé Singh Tanwar

Photo: Flickr