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Cure BionicsCure Bionics, a startup company based in Tunisia, is finalizing its design for a prosthetic hand using 3D-printed components. Priced at $2,000, the model will cost significantly less than the bionic limbs typically imported from Europe. Cure Bionics could transform the lives of many Tunisians in need of prosthetic limbs to improve their quality of life.

Disabilities in Tunisia

Although not much data is available for limb differences in Africa, the 2002-2004 World Health Survey declared that 16.3 of Tunisia’s population possessed some sort of disability.

Although the country has passed groundbreaking legislation prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities, prejudice still hinders Tunisians with disabilities from fully participating in social settings. Moreover, people with disabilities often find voting difficult due to a lack of appropriate accommodations and many struggle to find good employment. Past research indicated that nearly 60% of Tunisians with disabilities did not earn any individual income, and the 40% who did work, earned 40% less than people without disabilities.

Social, political and economic exclusion means, broadly speaking, that Tunisians with disabilities are more acutely impacted by multidimensional poverty than Tunisians without disabilities. In turn, this has led to disparities in education, health and employment. The social exclusion of people with disabilities has a considerable cost in terms of quality of life with a life expectancy reduction of approximately 18 years.

Cure Bionics

Cure Bionics hopes to improve the lives of disabled people in Tunisia by making high-tech bionic limbs more accessible and affordable for the people who need them.

When the company’s founder, Mohamed Dhaouafi, was studying engineering at university, he began to research prosthetics after learning that one of his peers had a relative who was born without upper limbs and could not afford prosthetics. Dhaouafi quickly discovered that this is not uncommon: Of the approximately 30 million people in developing countries who have amputated limbs, only 1.5 million can obtain prosthetics.

After graduating from university, Dhaouafi continued to work on the prosthetic device he had begun designing in school. Today, Cure Bionics’ 3D-printed bionic hands have rotating wrists, a mechanical thumb and fingers that bend at the joints in response to the electronic impulses. The bionic hand can be adjusted to accommodate a child’s physical growth. It can also be solar-powered for use in regions without a reliable electricity supply. Since young people with limb differences require multiple prostheses as they age, Cure Bionics’ cost-effective approach could help to ensure that more children benefit from prosthetic limbs earlier in life.

Moreover, Dhaouafi hopes to offer a virtual-reality headset for physical therapy sessions. Geared especially toward children, the headset will allow recipients of bionic limbs to become familiar with their prosthetics and to practice moving and flexing their fingers in the fun and exciting context of a video game.

Looking to the Future

While Cure Bionics continues to finalize and test its bionic hand before making it available for purchase in Tunisia, Dhaouafi has already set himself another goal. He wants to offer high-tech, low-cost prosthetic limbs to people with limb differences throughout Africa, the Middle East and beyond.

Selected by the Obama Foundation Leaders: Africa program in 2019, Dhaouafi is helping to increase access to bionic prosthetics for people who could not otherwise have afforded the expense. In this way, he is also helping Tunisians with limb disabilities to overcome the formidable challenges of exclusion and escape multidimensional poverty,  improving their quality of life overall.

Angie Grigsby
Photo: Flickr

Women’s rights in TunisiaFor neighboring countries, Tunisia is a model of women’s rights. Although women’s rights in Tunisia are lacking in some areas, activists and lawyers have consistently worked to dismantle patriarchal social structures.

Poverty in Tunisia

The national poverty rate consistently fell between 2005 and 2015. In 2005, the poverty rate in Tunisia was 23.1%, and in 2015, the poverty rate was 15.2%. Poverty tends to disproportionately affect inland regions in Tunisia.

Inland regions register higher rates of poverty than coastal regions. This difference is often stark. In Centre West, a landlocked region, the rate of poverty was 30.8%, whereas, in Centre Est, a coastal region, the poverty rate was 11.4%. The national poverty rate for men and women, however, was nearly identical.

Role of Women in the Economy

By 2005 the number of female entrepreneurs in Tunisia was nearly 5000 and had impressively doubled to 10,000 by 2008. Despite the expansion of women’s rights in Tunisia, which has played out through a legal process, deferral to traditional gender roles continues to hold women back from pursuing entrepreneurial roles in society. A 2010 study found that this may be explained by an “inadequate support system” for women in Tunisia who aspire to develop careers in the business world.

Mowgli Mentoring

The development of a strong support system for women entrepreneurs in Tunisia is the goal of Mowgli’s partnership with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The initiative partnered 12 Tunisian businesswomen with Mowgli mentors for a year. Its goal was to create a new culture of support and sustainability that will foster “economic and societal development throughout Tunisia.”

This approach is fundamental to shift the business culture in Tunisia. Institutional support for women entrepreneurs is tantamount to their success. Women entrepreneurs generally receive less institutional support than their male counterparts receive upon starting a new business. This includes a lack of financial support from financial institutions. Women entrepreneurs are also less likely to be offered opportunities to participate in business training, courses or schooling.

Women Entrepreneurs in Tunisia

Despite these obstacles, women entrepreneurs in Tunisia have developed innovative ways to improve support for women in business. Raja Hamdi is the director of the Sidi Bouzid Business Center. The center supports startups by providing mentors to evaluate business and market trends.

The Sidi Bouzid Business Center works closely with the Mashrou3i program, which is a partner of Go Market, a research and marketing firm located in the Kairouan region of Tunisia. Go Market was founded by female entrepreneur, Hayfa Ben Fraj. It works strategically in market analysis to support a “wide range of sectors and diverse fields such as technology, crafts and agriculture.”

Working Toward an Inclusive Economy

Although patriarchal structures of repression endure in Tunisia, the overall attitude is one of progress, equality and inclusion. Constituting one half of the population in Tunisia, women represent a latent workforce with the potential to reshape Tunisia’s economy through a series of innovative programs based on a culture of mutual support. Women’s rights in Tunisia will continue to increase as entrepreneurial opportunities for women flourish.

– Taylor Pangman
Photo: Flickr

 
Tunisia stands as the only Arab country to have undergone democratization due to the Arab Spring protests that shook the region in the 2010s. Fueled by widespread poverty and a low standard of living, along with many other factors, the nearly month-long campaign of civil disobedience led to the ousting of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. However, installing a functioning democracy has not alleviated all of the problems 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 the local authority, self-immolated outside of the local governor’s office. His sentiments echoed amongst many frustrated with poverty in Tunisia, corruption and the suppression of freedoms. Leading up to the revolution, an increasing number of middle-class citizens expressed dissatisfaction with their living standards. 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, which 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 defiance act.

As riots escalated and protestors were dying under live fire from police, President Ben Ali appeared on national television and made some concessions, reducing food prices and internet usage restrictions. These remarks proved too little too late, however, and the protests continued. By January 14, state media reported the dissolution of Ben Ali’s regime and the establishment of legislative elections. As unrest continued, Ben Ali fled the country. While new leadership took the reformed government’s reins, unrest continued as many of these new politicians were once members of Ben Ali’s Democratic Constitutional Rally. Eventually, Mohammed Ghannouchi, the acting prime minister, announced 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 dissolved in the face of continued protests over the inclusion of politicians from the old regime. These reforms within the Tunisian government stood 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?

While the Tunisian government changed drastically in the face of civil uprising, Tunisian citizens still face some of the issues that plagued them prior. Socially, there has been continued strife between Islamism and secularism in the country, with violence spreading throughout the country in 2012 regarding the connections between 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 migrated out of the country. Despite the changes in government, unemployment is still a significant issue. Nearly 23% of university graduates were unemployed right before the onset of the revolution. That figure 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 new government’s effectiveness, with only 46% saying that “democracy is preferable to any other kind of government” in 2018, dropping from 71% in 2013. Moreover, there has been some support from the international community in alleviating these issues.

The International Labour Organization

A wing of the United Nations, the International Labour Organization has devoted resources towards alleviating some of the poverty in Tunisia and societal issues facing Tunisians. Some initiatives include construction projects, such as a covered market in Sidi Bouzid. These initiatives provide vendors more favorable conditions to sell their goods and provide construction workers with employment. In Regueb, a village near Sidi Bouzid, the ILO 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 ILO in improving the conditions of Tunisian citizens.

Many challenges face Tunisians 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 inspired generations across the world. With support from the international community and dedication within the country, a bright future may lie ahead in alleviating poverty in Tunisia.

– Samuel Levine
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

Examining Child Poverty in TunisiaLocated in the northern region of Africa, Tunisia is home to some of the most beautiful places in Africa. There are picturesque coastlines and crystal-clear waters that are visited by people around the world. Although home to such beautiful sceneries, Tunisia has a history of child poverty in its regions. Tunisia, like many developing countries worldwide, has room for improvement in regard to child poverty, especially as children aged 0 to 14 make up 23% of Tunisia’s population.

Tunisia’s Economic Background

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Tunisia has strong growth potential. Just in the past few decades, Tunisia’s social and economic status has improved significantly. The average annual GDP grew by 5% and poverty went down from 60% in 1960 to 4.2% in 2000.

Tunisia has also introduced some budget reforms to improve its economic development. Tourism is a particular focus in the development of Tunisia’s economy. Thousands of people visit Tunisia every year and contribute to the country’s economy. With youth unemployment rates in Tunisia at a high, Tunisia’s government seeks to mitigate economic challenges.

Improving Childhood Education in Tunisia

An economy can impact a country’s education system in several ways. An often useful productive development strategy is to improve schooling levels within a nation. Whether it’s a lack of resources or funding from the government, it’s a focus of countries around the world.

Despite the economic status that Tunisia is currently in, the country does have the potential to recover, as we mentioned earlier. This economic relief would advance childhood education in Tunisia.

Since 1956, Tunisia has been focused on developing a good education system. Education is an important focus for the Tunisian government. About 20% of the government’s budget is allocated to its education system. In early 2018, the Tunisian Ministry of Women and Children partnered with Fun Academy to help develop high-quality education for Tunisian children. This is one of the strategies the Tunisian government is taking to improve the education system.

How Education Impacts the Economy

Educating young children so they can enter high school and college can positively impact a country’s economy. In fact, there are several ways the economy can be impacted by a lack of a proper education system. One of the ways we typically think of is by not having enough people in the professional field. It’s important for Tunisians seeking education to gain the skills to work in the professional field.

This includes early childhood education which will subsequently lead to a better economy. According to an article by Investopedia, education and training are important factors when improving a nation’s economic development. Additionally, employers in Tunisia can face training program increases as well as productivity in the professional field.

Tunisia’s education system is similar to many countries around the world. Tunisia currently spends about 20% to 30% of its national budget on education. In 1998, about 1.5 million kids were enrolled in primary school. At the time, there were about 4,349 primary schools open in Tunisia. These schools were taught by approximately 59,430 teachers and averaged at about 24.6 students per classroom. By the late 1990s, most kids were getting through primary school. Tunisia continues to build its focus on education and development projects.

Child Poverty in Tunisia

In many nations, children living in different parts of a country can have different amounts of education. Tunisia currently has a Millennium Development Goal (MDG) to improve human development and its main focus is to reduce poverty and hunger, improve universal primary education across Tunisia, advance child and maternal healthcare and establish environmental stability. While working on improving these aspects of the nation, the government also focuses on child poverty reduction in Tunisia.

According to the United Nations Development Programme, Tunisia may be able to reach its goals and highlights positive progress and new opportunities. Additionally, the National Solidarity Fund is trying to develop funds for vulnerable citizens in Tunisia. Tunisia is working on development programs to improve education and poverty reduction efforts across the country.

These development programs are anticipated to help local economies and build better infrastructure in the country. As previously mentioned, Tunisia has the potential to become an economically developed nation with good childhood education and resources for citizens in the country. By tackling child poverty in Tunisia, the country can improve its education system and alleviate national poverty.

– Amina Aden
Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in TunisiaA lawyer by training and a former militant against the colonialist movement, Béji Caïd Essebsi, current president of Tunisia, has earned himself another title for his resume: women’s rights activist.

Tunisia, birthplace of the Arab Spring, is often regarded as a model country for Middle Eastern countries trying to move toward democracy. In a predominantly Muslim country, President Essebsi has been the subject of much criticism due to his support for controversial legislation regarding women’s rights. However, the president maintains that under the country’s constitution, Tunisia is a civil state that emphasizes equality.

In July 2017, Tunisia’s parliament passed an unprecedented legislative package defending women’s rights. The law on violence against women, specifically rape and domestic violence, became a landmark step toward women’s empowerment in Tunisia, as well as all over the Middle East. Including key elements of the United Nations Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women, the law defines violence as “any physical, moral, sexual or economic aggression against women based on discrimination between the two sexes and resulting in damage or physical, sexual, psychological or economic suffering to the woman, including threats of such aggression, pressure or deprivation of rights and freedoms, both in public and private life.”

Tunisia became the first to overturn the draconian law offering impunity to rapists if they marry their victim of the few countries that still enforced it. Shortly after, Jordan and Lebanon followed suit. In addition, the laws passed by the Tunisian parliament include criminal provisions for violence committed within a family, as well as public sexual harassment. The new law takes important steps to women’s empowerment in Tunisia by requiring equal pay and protection against child employment. The law also includes crucial preventative measures to prevent violence against women, and requires assistance be given to surviving victims of domestic violence.

President Essebsi did not stop there though. In September 2017, he shifted his focus toward administrative orders regarding marriage and inheritance. President Essebsi urged the government to rescind previous law forbidding Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men. Additionally, he seeks to allow women to receive equal inheritance as women heirs are currently entitled to only half the inheritance of a man.

While President Essebsi’s emphasis on equality has the potential to empower women in Tunisia, passing a law is only the first step. Changing the way people think about women, not only in Tunisia and the Middle East but all over the world, still promises to be an uphill battle.

Richa Bijlani

Photo: Flickr

Poverty Rate in Tunisia
Tunisia proved the authority of its democracy when 2010 uprisings overthrew a decade-long dictatorship. That same year, the World Bank found that the poverty rate in Tunisia had been cut in half since the start of the century. Tunisia’s GDP has doubled as it approaches 10 years since that revolution, but rural areas are still stuck in a rut of poverty.

Most economic growth is localized to coastal, urban communities. The agricultural sector only contributes 10 percent to the overall GDP, but 35 percent of the country’s population competes for that small percentage. The result is that two-thirds of the country’s poor population lives in rural, agrarian areas.

Still, Tunisia is considered a success story and role model for other countries fighting poverty. The government implemented programs to improve the national status of education, healthcare and infrastructure after the new democracy took hold in 2011, and the aggregate influence was tangible. But the disparity remains, and the poverty rate in Tunisia is as much as 30 percent higher in some rural regions.

 

The Devastating Effects of the Poverty Rate in Tunisia

 

In hard to access areas, potable water and electricity are only available to 65 percent of people. This leaves nearly half of the poor population without water or electricity. The number of women receiving prenatal care is 35 percent lower in rural areas, and infant mortality rates are significantly higher. The Tunisian government has made basic healthcare accessible to all people, regardless of income, so the adverse statistics seem to represent a different problem.

Literacy rates (a strong indicator of poverty) are just above 98 percent for males between 15-24, and near 96 percent for females of the same age across Tunisia. These are promising figures, just like the overall improvement in poverty rate in Tunisia, but again there is a disparity in rural areas. Dropout rates for primary education remain at about 50 percent for the whole country, disproportionately attributed to children in poverty, and especially to girls in rural areas. The statistical stagnancy represents a social emphasis on patriarchy rather than education, and it is more and more clear that one father’s agrarian income can no longer support a family.

Tunisia’s battle against poverty shows that change begins with people. The poverty rate in Tunisia will continue to improve as the people continue to seek self-sufficiency. The civilian uprising that created their new democracy was an inspiration to similar countries, and hope remains that societal examples within that new democracy will make education and health a greater priority in rural areas.

Brooke Clayton

Photo: Google

Causes of Poverty in Tunisia
The pressing issue of poverty in the North African country of Tunisia is one that needs to be addressed. While attempting to understand the causes of poverty in Tunisia, patterns of unemployment, food insecurity and civil unrest have become most apparent.

According to a 2010 estimate, nearly 15.5 percent of Tunisians lived below the poverty line, whereas in 2014 the poverty rate was as high as 24.7 percent. Furthermore, the income inequality in Tunisia is dramatic – the top 20 percent of Tunisians earn 46.3 percent of the national income while the bottom 20 percent earn only 5.9 percent. Poverty, in particular, affects those in central Tunisia at a higher rate than those on the outskirts of the country’s borders.

 

Leading Causes of Poverty in Tunisia

 

Hunger is a pressing issue within Tunisia that contributes to poor living conditions for many. Numerous Tunisians are finding that their food is too expensive for them to afford or that it is physically and geographically inaccessible in seasons where food is not abundant. There are many problems associated with malnutrition on such a large scale including limits to economic productivity and increased health costs for many.

Tunisia also has a remarkably high unemployment rate, which affects, in particular, university graduates and women. Tunisia’s sizeable workforce is straining the country’s resources and many young Tunisians have reacted violently against this, which has contributed to the civil unrest that concluded with the revolt against the Ben Ali regime in 2011.

The civil unrest that has plagued Tunisia since 2011 is another one of the major causes of poverty in Tunisia. The political instability that is a result of the Ben Ali regime stems from dissatisfaction with poverty and unemployment that continues to plague many Tunisians. This unrest has since driven away tourists and business investors alike, which has further increased unemployment for Tunisians, as not enough jobs are being created to meet the demands of the growing workforce.

At the moment, it seems that the best way to combat poverty in Tunisia is to address the unemployment and political instability that have contributed to poor living conditions for many of the population. By addressing these two major issues, the lives of many in this country will likely begin to improve as poverty can start to decrease nationwide.

Jennifer Faulkner

Photo: Flickr

Corruption in TunisiaIn 2010, a 26-year-old fruit vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself on fire in the rural Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid while protesting a corrupt and undemocratic government. In the proceeding months, popular protests spread like wildfire from the inland region of Tunisia to the coastal capital, and on to Egypt and Syria.

Since then, the country has held its first successful democratic elections. Still, corruption in Tunisia has not subsided. This development has been cynically dubbed the “democratization of corruption.”

The most pernicious form of corruption in Tunisia can be found in the credit industry. In recent years, the government has received between $2 billion and $4 billion worth of foreign loans, which officials then allocate to private banks – usually those with close clientele relationships with the government.

Moving down the line, nepotism also decides which private companies can acquire credit from banks. More often than not, investments end up in the major coastal cities, leaving almost four million rural Tunisians – 35 percent of the population – working and living in only 15 percent of the total Tunisian economy.

Last May, a “Second Revolution” erupted outside Tataouine, a rural city in the south, protesting corruption in Tunisia. Demonstrations called for increased regional investments and jobs and demanded that one local oil company in particular implement employment quotas for Tunisian nationals.

In tandem with the democratization, a number of anti-corruption agencies like the National Authority for the Fight Against Corruption (INLUCC) have been created. In an ironic twist of fate, the current government used the widespread anti-corruption sentiment to accuse recent protesters of colluding with smugglers and violent extremists.

While much of the called-for investments in inland Tunisia may, no doubt, end up in the hands of corrupt officials and businesspeople – just as it does in coastal cities – capital flows will nevertheless begin to amend regional economic disparities and prevent future conflict. Indeed, the World Bank notes that rather than improving since the 2011 revolution, the economic divide between the inland and costal regions has grown more severe.

To fix these problems, the International Crisis Group recommends encouraging the Tunisian government to give more funding to the INLUCC and facilitate an economic dialogue between regional elites. Until corruption in Tunisia is brought to an end, foreign loans will continue to merely stimulate certain segments of the Tunisian economy and exacerbate regional tensions.

Nathaniel Sher
Photo: Flickr

Why is Tunisia Poor

Tunisia is a country of around 11 million people in North Africa. In the past decade, it has emerged as the only success story of the Arab Spring, a revolutionary and democratically-minded movement that swept the Arab world in the early 2010s. So why is Tunisia poor?

In the decade before 2010, Tunisia managed to halve its poverty rate, dropping from 35 percent to 16 percent. This success came from certain important social achievements. Universal access to electricity, high enrollment in primary education and reductions in child malnutrition were significant factors. However, these trends seemed to stall after 2010, and the poverty rate has remained fairly stagnant.

Despite the poverty reduction and economic growth, inequality has also increased. Many investments in the early 2000s moved from high-skill jobs to low-skill ones. Tunisia also lacks a significant social security system and unemployment insurance. Investments typically happen in coastal regions, which increases regional wealth disparities.

In central Tunisia, poverty and and unemployment rates are several times higher than the national average. Some experts worry that the lack of infrastructure and jobs will create a breeding ground for extremism that could threaten Tunisia’s progress.

But why is Tunisia poor in certain areas? Several factors contribute to overall unequal opportunity in Tunisia. Where you live and the circumstances you were born into can determine how long you attend school and whether you have access to water. Additionally, Tunisia falls behind most other Middle Eastern and North African countries when it comes to sanitation.

Certain facts about an individual household in Tunisia can determine whether the family is impoverished. The educational attainment of the head of the household and the ratio of male to female employees are some indicators. Additionally, the ratio of the food budget spent on inexpensive cereal products can also indicate a level of poverty. Finally, households with fewer children are also less likely to be impoverished.

Thankfully, with successes both in reducing poverty in the past and in the Arab Spring, the people of Tunisia have proved that they can achieve incredible social victories. The International Monetary Fund has also recently lent Tunisia $2.9 billion to help address the issue of poverty.

Brock Hall

Photo: Flickr