Mercy Corps is starting up programs in the North African country of Tunisia for the first time.
Tunisia stands at a crossroads following the dramatic events leading to the January 14, 2011, overthrow of President Ben Ali. As the euphoria of the revolution subsides, the country faces important decisions on what comes next. Tunisian citizens want more meaningful engagement in the political processes that govern their lives.
Mercy Corps recognizes how important civil society engagement is to Tunisia's future. Our first program aims to enhance civic education and the influence of women and youth leadership in citizen organizations. As the country undergoes reform, there will be many new opportunities for women and young people to participate and represent their interests and points of view. Working in close partnership with the Center of Arab Women for Training and Research (CAWTAR) and the Fédération Tunisienne des Clubs UNESCO-ALECSO (FTCUA), the program will:
- Help 30 national, regional and local organizations to engage women, youth and their communities in civic projects
- Increase the capacity of youth organizations to advocate and network to address key social, political and economic issues
- Develop and increase youth awareness and engagement through the Global Citizen Corps approach, so that 225 young Tunisians can learn the leadership skills and civic knowledge necessary to help shape their new environment
CAWTAR has extensive experience building the capacity of a wide variety of community service organizations, as well as expertise to help address the gender issues that will be a key to success in building a Tunisia-owned civil sector. Likewise, FTCUA also has important expertise and a long history of working with Tunisian youth. They have the capability to deepen youth engagement in the country.
Young people comprise 50 percent Tunisia's population. They represent a particularly important constituency in Tunisia’s transition because of the role they played in the revolution, their rapidly growing numbers and their lack of representation in government. Likewise, women, whose role in civil society was similarly constrained during the Ben Ali regime, will also be important participants in the reform process.
Tunisia’s revolution marked the beginning of this year’s dynamic Arab Spring. We’re confident that, with help from our accomplished local partners, we can help youth, women and other committed Tunisian citizens continue that spirit of change and transform their country for the better.