Tunisia

Priority Issues

  • economic and social rights
  • migrant and refugee rights
  • women’s rights

Began Program: 2004

The Fund has been active in Tunisia since 2004, years before the revolution that launched the Arab Spring. Tunisia then was a deeply repressive police state, and the Fund was one of the only donors in the country.

Post revolution, human rights groups no longer face the same levels of harassment from the government, however, challenges abound. Much of the movement is new, and even seasoned activists must build the skills needed to promote reforms in a fledgling democracy. The government has arrested bloggers and journalists. But the efforts of the human rights movement have also led to major successes—for example, attempts to undermine women’s rights in the new constitution were rebuffed thanks to demonstrations and negotiations. The laws of the land are being rewritten in Tunisia, and our aim is to make sure they guarantee basic human rights.

“The Fund is unique and important for field organizations because it combines grants, capacity-building, and exchanges between mature and young organizations in contexts of political transition.”
Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights

Our Strategy

Tunisia’s revolution opened up the space long demanded by Fund grantees. Our commitment to Tunisian activists enabled them to sustain their work through difficult times, and formerly-underground grantees are now in high demand as leading voices demanding a society based on justice, accountability and equality. We have expanded our reach with a focus on the concerns of ordinary Tunisians—the economic and social rights that were central to the revolution, health rights undermined by unchecked pollution, and the rights of low-wage workers. We’ve also invested in the next generation of women’s rights activists to safeguard women’s equality—now and with an eye to the future.

In nearby Morocco, we have supported our women’s rights grantees for years as they’ve built a movement that is grassroots-oriented, effective on policy advocacy and focused on tangible improvements in women’s lives. We initiated a mentorship program where emerging Tunisian activists shadow our Moroccan grantees and learn how to build ties with women, influence local officials, and coordinate national coalitions. Activists learn first-hand strategies to counter extremism and violence in ways that meaningfully include women in poor communities.

Participants in the mentorship program joined together to undertake a cross-country women’s rights caravan—the first of its kind in Tunisia.