Education International
Education International

Statement by the FGESRS, Tunisia, made during Education International’s First World Women’s Conference in Bangkok

published 31 January 2011 updated 22 March 2011

The movement of uprising against dictatorship and corruption which Tunisia, my country, has been witnessing for a month, has enabled our people to engage in an heroic struggle to recover its National pride and rights which have been denied to it. An historic stage on the road to freedom and democracy is starting for the people who can again become masters of their own destiny, restore individual, trade union and political freedoms, set up democratic institutions, fight corruption and use the resources of the country to develop and fight corruption, poverty and unfairness everywhere.

The Tunisian people comprised of the unemployed, whether graduates or not, workers, students, teachers, lawyers, artists, civil servants, shopkeepers, men and women from all regions and of all generations brought down a corrupt police state which was ruinous for the country, shameful for its thousand year old civilisation and unworthy of a people passionate about justice and progress. Now that the President has fallen, the fight continues to ensure the success of the democratic transition.

Trade Unionist from all sectors united within the trade union association, the General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT) played a pivotal rule in the social struggle. Regional and local offices of the UGTT drove and led the popular uprising, organised strikes and demonstrations including that of 14 January which precipitated the departure of the President. The UGTT has made its claims both at the social and political level. It is calling for a development model which guarantees equal opportunities, the right to a decent job, social justice and regional equality. It is calling for political reforms towards democracy and freedom. Tunisia benefits from certain factors which differentiate it from other countries in the same social and political situation, namely education, the place of women in society and an atypical trade union organisation which is strongly unified and independent. The effort made since the country’s independence in 1956 made it possible to achieve universal schooling and parity within all the levels of education. Higher education boasts 58% women. They represent 60% of university graduates.

Tunisians benefit from equality legislation and family law which is unique in the Muslim world. They actively participate in all walks of life even if their human capital remains under- exploited and they are underrepresented in positions of responsibility and decision-making. Turning to the Trade Union: the UGTT was founded in 1946 to enable workers to take part in the anti-colonial struggle. After independence, the association of trade unions served to provide checks and balances and acted as a partner in negotiations to defend workers and support social movements. It has always fought to remain free, independent and militant. Young educated Tunisian people have been crushed by a single party which assimilated power, controlled State institutions, used Police repression to stamp out freedoms and pillaged the resources of the country. The Tunisian miracles which has been quoted so often by international bodies and which was based solely on economic indicators, has demonstrated its limitations. Economic progress, education for all, equality between men and women has been achieved in Tunisia, but despite their importance, these factors can only contribute to peoples’ well-being if they are associated with freedoms, social justice, a decent job and the distribution of the fruits of development and democracy. The Tunisian miracle will be achieved when the Tunisian people succeed, with its men and women, to build a society which is educated, free and fair. Our struggle continues in order to retain what has been acquired in respect of education system and the status of women, and to win our place in respect of democracy, progress and social justice.