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

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid