Tunisia’s oldest women’s organisation forced into bankruptcy – report

Monday, 19 August 2013 12:15 GMT

A woman waves a Tunisia flag during a rally to protest against religious and political violence in Tunisia, on Avenue Habib Bourguiba in Tunis October 22, 2012. REUTERS/Anis Mili

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Islamist-led government accused of withholding grants to some NGOs

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The National Union of Tunisian Women, the country’s oldest women’s organization, has declared bankruptcy and said this was caused by a cessation of government funding, according to a report by Middle East Online. 

Radhia Jerbi, president of the National Union of Tunisian Women (UNFT), said the government, led by the Islamist Ennahda party, had refused to release grants on which the organization relied for salaries and other expenses.  

Jerbi said the government did release grants to some organisations but not others, according to Middle East Online. 

Since its founding in 1956, the year Tunisia won independence from France, the UNFT saw the country adopt some of the most advanced women’s rights in the Arab world including the right to vote, a ban on polygamy and child marriage and equal rights to divorce. 

However, with the rise of the Islamist party to power in the October 2011 elections, women’s rights have been a source of concern to activists, who fear a rollback of rights in the new constitution currently being drafted. 

The so-called Arab Spring, which has toppled dictatorships in Libya and Egypt, was triggered by the revolution which began in Tunisia in late 2010 and in January 2011, and resulted in the overthrow of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, the country’s authoritarian leader for 23 years.  

Democratic elections in October 2011 brought the moderate Islamist Ennahda party to power along with the rise of radical Islamist groups around the country.

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