REPUBLIC OF TUNISIA Ministry of Women and Family Affairs Post-Beijing National Plan of Action 1997-2001 I - INTRODUCTION Tunisian policy for promoting the condition of women is noteworthy for its spirit of continuity. It is part of a global approach that, apart from its legal basis, considers human development and the inclusion of women in economic channels as the main elements in that policy. A concrete expression of civilizational decisions based on the view that women's rights are part and parcel of human rights, this policy moved into a new qualitative stage, with the Change of November 7, with the adoption of a gender-based planning methodology and the enactment of important legal and institutional reforms aimed at giving firm rooting to the principles of equity, equality of opportunity and partnership between men and women in both private and public life. Tunisia can be considered a progressive country, since as early as 1991, in connection with the preparation of the 8th plan, it chose to carry out gender-modulated planning as part of an approach tending to provide specific mechanisms and programs for women, that would at the same time integrate them into the general dynamic of development, in line with the recommendations of the Fourth World Conference on Women. Since that time, this orientation has been strengthened by amendments and basic alterations made in August 1992 in favor of women and the family, and by the adoption of a national plan of action for the family, which is conceived to reconcile the basic rights of women with the imperatives of safeguarding family stability and equilibrium. Thus Tunisia has acquired considerable experience in this field, by pursuing a coherent, lucid approach that has provided the country with a number of gains that are consistent with the orientations of the United Nations. All these results are reflected in the balance-sheet for the 8th plan. II- Tunisia played a ground-breaking role very early on, in enacting truly avant-garde legislation to reinforce and confirm women's rights. This orientation has become still more pronounced since the beginning of the new era, with ratification of the principle of equality and partnership between the sexes and a striving to eliminate any remaining discriminatory practices. The measures President Ben Ali announced on National Women's Day, August 13, 1992, which have led in particular to broad legal amendments (the Code of Personal Status, the Labor Code, the Nationality Code, the Penal Code), and the establishment of institutional mechanisms to promote female human resources, have confirmed the position of women as citizens who are in full possession of their rights and who are responsible partners in the family and society. From a concern to provide a firmer foundation for these options regarding civilization, and to reaffirm within Tunisian law the principles confirmed by these amendments, particularly the principles of gender equality, respect of women's rights, and equally-shared responsibility in the conduct of family and children's affairs, President Ben Ali promulgated, on April 5, 1996, an extensive series of social measures in favor of women and the family. The status of women as a key element in comprehensive development has taken concrete form in their active participation in defining goals, identifying choices and intensifying programs and projects. Women have been raised to the level of fully-entitled partners who share with men the same rights and duties, the same role in the development process, and the same enjoyment of the fruits of growth. During the 1995-96 school year, the school enrollment rate among girls between the ages of 6 and 12 was 89.4%; during the same period, the percentage of female students attending primary school was 47.1%, with a particularly remarkable improvement being noted in rural areas. To ensure that girls, particularly those living in the country, attend school as regularly as possible, measures have been taken that include a single-session school day and the creation of school canteens; as a result, the rate of school failure and class repetition has been lowered too under 4%. The proportion of girls enrolled in the secondary schools has risen from 44% in 1988-89 to 48.7% in 1995-96, while the percentage of female students selecting scientific and technical courses of study rose from 14.5% in 1990-91 to 17% in 1994-95. To anchor the principle of gender equality in the minds of coming generations, school curricula and manuals have been recast to improve the image of women and emphasize the necessity that family relations be based on mutual respect and shared responsibilities, and to stress the importance of the woman's presence as a responsible, active partner in public life and society. The major victims of illiteracy are women, and a national plan has been set up to combat illiteracy entirely among women between the ages of 15 and 45 by the year 2006. Some 66,690 young women aged 15 to 29 are currently enrolled in literacy centers, and the goal is to lower the women's illiteracy rate from its 1992 figure of 30% to 17.3% in 1997. Tunisian women play a positive role in the country's economy-all the statistics confirm this. The proportion of women in the working population has risen from 5.5% in 1966 to 23% in 1994, while the number of women project promoters has also increased remarkably, leaping to 1,500 female promoters in the structured sector, compared with only a thousand in 1991. Twelve percent of these women manage farms, while the others are distributed among tourism, electronics, textiles, the food industry, consulting firms, the manufacturing industries, etc. The number of women in positions of decision-making has also grown substantially, and women now occupy 7% of seats in parliament, 17% of the seats on municipal councils, 12% of positions in public office and the magistracy, etc. To facilitate the participation of women in achieving sustainable development, a whole range of institutional mechanisms has been set up: The Ministry of Women's and Family Affairs (August 1992), the National Council on Women and the Family (September 1992), The Center for Research, Studies and Documentation on Women (August 1990). Many women occupy positions of responsibility in departmental cabinets, and a national commission on "women and development" has been set up in connection with preparation of the 8th and 9th development plans (1991-1996 and 1997-2001). The Ministry of Women's and Family Affairs is striving to disseminate awareness of women's rights and to instill respect of the principles of human rights through an information and education strategy targeting women and the family, and through a public relations and orientation unit that handles more than a thousand requests every year. The ministry is also working to publicize the contribution made by women to the development process and the achievement of equality of opportunities between the sexes in all fields, particularly the economic. In this respect it is supported by: -the unit to evaluate the impact of development projects on the condition of women, which works to increase integration of women into development programs; -the national observatory created in the CREDIF to monitor the condition of women; -the national plan of action for the family, which includes a set of activities intended to strengthen the production capacities of women and the family, for example the creation of a fund to support micro-businesses managed by women. The acceleration, in the early 90s, of the policy for integration of basic reproductive health, particularly services related to fertility and family planning, has had a very distinct effect on all women's health indicators. In 1995, the rate of pregnant women presenting for prenatal consultations was 78%, 88% in urban areas and 69% in rural. Deliveries performed under medical supervision in health structures represented 93% of all deliveries (70% in rural areas and 93% in the cities), while contraceptive use had reached 60%. The importance of the protection of girl children is manifested in the components of the development plan and in the significant accomplishments of the 8th plan, which show the great concern taken by the political leadership in the sector of childhood, youth and women, a concern which has enabled Tunisian girl children and young women to benefit from all the measures targeting any of these categories. This privileged status has contributed to a perceptible improvement for girls in many vital fields, as is revealed by indicators concerning education, training, health and employment. Various institutional mechanisms have been set up to handle affairs related to youth and childhood, not to mention ratification of the Convention on the rights of the child, the enactment of a Code for the Protection of the Child, and the adoption of a national plan for children and of a similar plan for the family, both of which attach particular importance to educating and developing the capabilities of Tunisian children. Politically speaking, the laws that govern Tunisia's political life guarantee equality of men and women in the exercise of their responsibilities. Tunisia is also considered to have pioneered in ratifying international conventions concerning women's rights and the establishment of the mechanisms required to reinforce women's participation in political and public life. This very full range of laws and mechanisms has helped strengthen the presence of women in the field of political action. The parliamentary elections of 1994 marked a rise in the proportion of female deputies from 4.16% to 7%, and the municipal elections of 1995 enabled women to obtain 17% of the seats on municipal councils, compared with 14% previously. Women are also well represented on the economic and social council (11 %) and in the structures of the Democratic Constitutional Rally (RCD), the majority party, thanks to the implementation of progressive programs to raise skills and awareness among women. The democratic process and a strengthening of civil society have given strong new impetus to the country's associations. Associations concerned with women's issues and with the relation of women with development now number more than 20, indicating the enthusiasm of Tunisian women for such organizations, the degree of maturity they have reached, and an awareness of the importance of their playing fully their role in confirming the values of civil society. The many measures that have been taken in favor of women since the beginning of the 90s have contributed to imparting a new vitality to their participation in public life and to improving their image in society. Culturally speaking, women have distinguished themselves in every field through the creativity and their original contribution-the theatre, motion pictures, the arts, and literature. In the latter field, the number of works published by women doubled between 1990 and 1996, and they enjoy considerable media coverage. This brief summary shows what important accomplishments have been made possible for women through the strategic approach of the 8th plan. Similarly, these accomplishments show, in line with the recommendations of the methodology advocated at the Beijing Conference, that Tunisia has moved actively forward in adopting the technique of gender-based planning, and in addition that most of the problems identified in the international working document as priority s areas for action, were included in the 8th plan, and that appropriate measures were taken regarding them, thereby creating a real dynamic in all fields, in relation with the promotion of women and the family in Tunisia. III - PLAN OF ACTION FOR THE NEXT FIVE YEARS Priorities have been set for the promotion of women for the next decade on the basis of an evaluation of what was accomplished during the 8th plan, and also in the light of approaches and projections related to the broad decisions Tunisia is making for the 21st century, in the aim of raising the country to the ranks of the advanced countries, successfully dealing with the imperatives of modernity, and at the same time remaining loyal to the bases of its Arab and Islamic identity. In this respect, the 9th plan represents an essential mechanism for giving concrete expression to these decisions and ambitions in the coming period, bearing in mind that women have been considered a constant factor and a moving force in comprehensive, sustainable development. The national commission "women and development," which contributed to preparing the 9th plan (1997-2001), drew upon these criteria and principles as a reference in defining the plan of action for that five-year period, and that plan also converges with the strategic objectives outlined in the action plan that resulted from the Fourth World Conference on Women, and with the preliminary orientations set forth in the regional plans of action on the Arab and African levels. Priorities: The Tunisian strategy for the promotion of women following Beijing falls within the framework of the 9th plan for economic and social development, and is based on two major intentions: confirming the principle of equality and partnership between the sexes so as to give concrete expression to equality of opportunities in all fields; and revitalizing the role of women in all areas of comprehensive development. A certain number of priorities had to be defined, and these can be classified under seven key elements. 1) Strengthening the economic potential of women to enable them to participate in the planning and achievement of the upgrading of the 6 economic tissue and the social environment, as an essential partner in the success of that operation. This implies improving the proportion assigned to women in the different sectoral policies, and improving women's skills, to give them equal opportunities with respect to training, further training, introduction to new techniques, and access to investment, financing, and facilities for the launching of projects. 2) Combatting poverty and improving women's living conditions, by incorporating policies to protect women with specific needs into a view based on self-reliance and solidarity, and on giving priority, in programs of social promotion and eradication of poverty, to the social categories most vulnerable to marginalization and exclusion, and more particularly to women heads of families and women without resources. Small projects conceived by women must also be encouraged, and productive women's activities must be given technical and financial assistance, accompanied by efforts to eliminate disparities among and within regions. 3) Strengthening the rights of women by encouraging the development of an acceptance of the ideas of partnership and equality between men and women, through information, education and communication strategies that begin in early childhood. Such strategies must be designed to anchor the principles of human rights, eliminate all forms of discrimination and prejudice, foster development of institutional structures and scientific potential by reinforcing the mechanisms of analysis and documentation on women, the dissemination of gender-based planning and census-taking, the development of data banks, of the observatory of the condition of women and of the unit to evaluate economic project impact on women, in addition to the preparation of modules for training in women's rights as a part of school curricula and training programs at all levels. 4) Promoting female human resources by developing the intellectual and physical capabilities of young girls; this is accomplished by giving the sexes equal opportunities at all levels of education, training and retraining, to enable women to improve their qualifications and thereby provide them with better chances for entering economic channels. These sectoral programs will be seconded by national plans drawn up in association with comprehensive social policies, such as the National Solidarity Fund (2626), the national plan for promotion of the family, and the national plan to eradicate illiteracy, which is going to be restructured in such a way as to reduce women's illiteracy by giving priority to the 15-25 age group, so as to favor enrolment of these young women in the vocational training system. 5) Protecting girls. What is original in Tunisian policy with regard to promotion of the individual is the special concern that is taken for childhood and youth, and the absolute priority accorded this segment of society among the priorities of the 9th development plan, which-very unusually-devotes an entire chapter to youth, with a view to drawing up programs that correspond to their needs and aspirations, and giving them the means for coping with the radical changes occurring today in the fields of technology, economy, and knowledge in general, so that they can interact with them, master them, and even contribute to advancing and enriching them. The concern taken for Tunisian girls enters into this framework, as the plan has fixed a set of priorities and programs targeting them specifically: -improvement of female school enrolment indicators in rural areas and reduction of early school dropout; -preparation of programs to encourage young girls to select technical and scientific courses of study; - improvement of the physical and mental state of girls, particularly during adolescence; -integration of girls into the vocational training system as full-fledged trainees in all courses of training, eliminating all prejudices; - conduct of information and education programs for young girls in the fields of health, introduction to human rights and introduction to participation in civic life; -preparation and execution of information and education programs to combat discrimination against girls in the family and in society. 6) Confirming the role of women in civic life and in clubs and associations. This goal is a decisive one, intended to meet present and future challenges. It is also a means for anchoring the values of human rights and democracy and for giving material expression to the idea of comprehensive, sustainable development. It is hoped in this way to foster a more thorough awareness among women of the political and social importance of their participation in public life. The efforts of the State and of the various components of civil society converge here to confirm the principle of equality of opportunities between the sexes in all fields, and particularly with regard to decision-making positions in the public and private sectors. 7) Taking a concern for migrant women Emigration is a phenomenon of civilization whose social and human implications explain why consistent concern is taken for the Tunisian colony abroad, and why it is assigned a place of choice in development policy, as an integral part of the national community. Considering the central role women play in emigrant families, safeguarding the identity of their members, strengthening their stability and protecting them from all marginalization and exclusion, efforts in the coming five years will be directed at reactivating programs that target emigrant women and their families, giving priority to the following three elements: -reinforcing the social guidance women receive from government structures and associations, which are well placed to assist migrant women and to deal with their specific needs; -developing programs for the social and cultural orientation of the two or three generations born in emigration, and mobilizing women to play an effective role in this educational activity; -identifying the economic potential of emigrant women and encouraging them to launch projects in Tunisia. 8) Promoting partnership and international cooperation The evolution of the concept of comprehensive, sustainable development, with all it implies in the way of strengthening the democratic process and fostering active participation in the various aspects of civil society, calls for encouraging partnership between government structures and NGOs so as to achieve the objectives of development. In this respect, the strategy to promote women has been thought out on the basis of this methodology, by developing partnership among all those working in the sectors of women and the family, from identification of priorities and goals down to the final accomplishment of programs and projects. The action plan for women also attaches particular importance to international cooperation as a tool for mobilizing financial resources and exchanging experience and knowledge within the framework of North - South and South-South cooperation. The promotion of women is a constant in the methodology of development strategy planning in Tunisia, a country in which women's rights have long since come to be considered an integral aspect of human rights. Tunisia is in the avant-garde with respect to basic women's rights, having enacted advanced legislation and undertaken radical legal reforms touching on all aspects of private and public life. Furthermore, these reforms are entirely consistent with international standards and converge upon the objectives of the Beijing methodology regarding women's rights. Thus it was natural that the priorities defined under the 9th plan and in the national plan of action following Beijing should lay prime emphasis on economic aspects and on the development of female resources, concurrently with an increased development in attitudes, the attenuation of disparities between what is law and what is actually experienced, and other aspects related to improving women's living conditions, so as to accentuate Tunisia's avant-garde dimension and bring the country's policy into total harmony with the recommendations of the Fourth World Conference on Women.
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