News / Africa

Tunisian Women Seeking Place in Future Political Makeup

Women gesture during a protest in Tunis, January 29, 2011
Women gesture during a protest in Tunis, January 29, 2011

Multimedia

Audio
Lisa Bryant

Women have been active participants in anti-government protests that toppled the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt. Now, as Tunisia turns the page on authoritarian rule, women are seeking their place in the future political makeup of this North African country.



There was a familiar sound in the January protests that ousted Tunisia's strongman president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali. The sound of women -- like teacher Ledia Nebli, who participated in rallies against the regime in downtown Tunis with her husband and three daughters.

Nebli says that of course women were beside men in the demonstrations -- they wanted freedom after more than two decades of authoritarian rule.

Tunisia's women have been beside men in many other ways -- starting with the fight for independence from France more than half a century ago. Many like reporter Samar Neguida are proud of their role.

"Women in Tunisia -- they have more rights than anywhere else in the Arab region and the whole Middle East region. They are allowed to vote, they are allowed to have cars -- not like women in Saudi Arabia. They have rights in the parliament -- more than 25 percent of the lower house of deputies is made up of women."

Now, Tunisian women are searching for their place in this new post-Ben Ali landscape.  Some fear the re-emergence of the once-banned Ennadha Islamist party.

The party's leader, Rachid Ghanouchi, argues he has no intention of imposing his beliefs on Tunisians. But women like Faten Abdelkefi  --  a 33-year-old mother of three and a major participant in the Facebook revolt that drove Ben Ali from power -- were out in force demonstrating against his return late last month.

Abdelkefi says Tunisian women are concerned they may lose the rights they gained if Ennadha emerges as a major political force.

But others like Neguida note that championing women's rights also served as a pretext to give legitimacy to Ben Ali's staunchly secular - but undemocratic -- regime.

"It was, in one way or another, helping Ben Ali. Because he was fighting Islamists by taking off women's veils for example."

With elections expected within six months, women are now considering what part they will play in the political process.

Blogger Abdelkefi says women were so worried about the Islamists returning, they paid less attention to their place in the current interim government -- where only two of the 23 ministers are women. Not one of the 24 newly named governors is a woman.

Abdelkefi suggests one longstanding group -- the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women -- could be reshaped into a political party.  

Abdelkefi is also keeping an eye on women in other Arab countries, now roiled by their own anti-government protests. She says she has been cheering on her counterparts in Egypt who helped drive longtime President Hosni Mubarak from office on Friday.

NEW: Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Missouri Town Braces for Possible Racial Unrest

Situation in Ferguson hinges on whether white police officer will be indicted for August shooting death of unarmed black teen More

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of 1930s Deadly Famine

President Poroshenko compares Soviet-era ‘genocide’ to current tactics of pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine's east More

S. Philippines Convictions Elusive 5 Years After Election-related Killings

Officials vowed to deliver justice as the nation marked the anniversary of the country's worst political massacre that left 58 dead, more than half media More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid