Meriem Jerbi: “Civil Society and Revolution in Tunisia”

El Cairo.- Meriem Jerbi talked to us about the situation of the civil society in Tunisia after the 2011 Revolution and how it has an impact in the political developments in the country. During Ben Ali’s era, the regime controlled very tightly all the NGO’s in order to make sure that they supported the government. Around 90% of the NGO’s were pro-regime. Associations with any different political ideology in general were not allowed to create any charity or development organization.

_62259431_62258329.jpgAfter the Revolution, there was an explosion of NGO’s. Up to 6.000 new groups were created. Her job at CATWAR (Center of Arab Women for Training and Research) is to provide assistance to a group of new NGO’s, especially those who promote gender equality and women rights. New tunisian NGO’s lack of experience is a challenge for their long-term survival and independence, since the government may try to impose a strict control on their actions again. Currently, most of them operate thanks to volunteers, but it is a desirable goal to raise its level of professionalism by recruiting some technical graduated people.

Women rights associations play a crucial role in the current time, since the recent rise of Political Islam threatens to erase the gains achieved during the secular post-independence governments. For example, the first draft of the Constitution still being discussed asserted that “women complete men”. Thanks to the mobilization of the civil society, the Islamist party, Ennahda, had to backtrack and abandon this article. Another threat is the return of poligamy, banned for many years in the country. Currently, there are a few people practising it illegally.

Meriem also developed into the political situation in the country. She thinks most people are disappointed because the post-revolutionary era has not brought much improvement of their lives, but rather an increase in inflation and unemployment. However, they remain active and hopeful about a better future.

The country is going through an acute political crisis, since the government and the opposition are unable to complete their national dialogue, which should chart the way forward to complete the transition to democracy. In theory, the current temporary government was designated by the National Constitutional Assembly, who was elected in October 2011 with the mandate of drafting the Constitution within one year. The opposition wants a new government of technocrats to assume power immediately and prepare the way for elections. So far, government and opposition have been unable to agree on who should form the new cabinet.

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