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Tunisia: Forward Steps in Democratic Transition
Washington, DC– Democracy is a process, not an event. In Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring, this truth could not be overstated. Having successfully conducted a series of three elections (parliamentary, presidential and presidential runoff) at the close of 2014, Tunisia has undergone a democratic transition with a bright promise for the future yet also with plenty of challenges ahead. In the wake of the March 18, 2015 terrorist attack that attempted to stifle the success of Tunisia’s young democracy, the strength and will of millions could not be suppressed.
The International Republican Institute (IRI) has been working within Tunisia since the regime of dictator Ben Ali was removed from power by the Tunisian people. With assistance in establishing the fundamentals of democratic governance, a diverse political landscape and a politically informed, active citizenry have taken hold.
Key to this newly democratic political process is the equal participation of women. And the women of Tunisia have shown great pride in participating as voters, political party members, campaign managers, campaign and polling station staff – and candidates. Although much is to be done for the political process to become fully inclusive, there nonetheless exists a steady optimism as women stand poised to continue increasing their already active political engagement across sectors, parties and regions.
One exciting way in which a group of women in Tunis have decided to increase not only their own political and civil engagement but also that of other women, is to form a Women’s Democracy Network (WDN) chapter. Seeing the need for more women to be politically informed and become actively involved, the group of approximately 30 women have come together to build upon their political interests, recruit others, amplify their collective voice and learn from one another.
It is a diverse group, hailing from political parties across the political spectrum and a variety of professional backgrounds, as well as age groups. All with one purpose in mind. To form a strong foundation for the involvement of Tunisian women in the political discourse and process moving forward, in Tunis and in other regions.
The WDN chapter intends to focus on two main goals at the start: one, engaging women in the decentralization of the government, the next phase of political activity in Tunisia over this next year, and two, engaging youth to feel once again a part of the political scene.
Many youth, and many of the population in general, are disillusioned that change in daily life has not come more swiftly. Democracy brings opportunity, freedom, choice and basic rights – but it takes time to transition and it takes patience. It can be slow, arduous and difficult. It is a process.
Part of that process is the steady increase in citizen engagement, civil society involvement, and in Tunisia in particular, a comprehensive approach to economic reform as well as security. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but every step forward counts.
The women of the new WDN chapter are looking ahead to the future, keeping in mind that there are challenges to overcome, and are leading with optimism and determination to bring continued positive change to their country.