Ministry of Women and Family Affairs
             National Plan of Action


     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

     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

     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.


     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.


     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

     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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Date last updated: 08 May 2000 by DESA/DAW
Copyright 1999 United Nations