Readings on Tunisia for April 19/20

Achy, L. (2011, December). Tunisia’s economic challenges. Carnegie Endowment.. Retrieved December 2011, from http://carnegieendowment.org/files/tunisia_economy.pdf

Megahed, N., & Lack, S. (2011). Colonial legacy, women’s rights and gender-educational inequality in the Arab World with particular reference to Egypt and Tunisia. International Review Of Education / Internationale Zeitschrift Für Erziehungswissenschaft, 57(3/4), 397-418. doi:10.1007/s11159-011-9215-y

Women’s rights and gender-educational inequality -1

Ottaway, M., & Hamzawy, A. (2011, January 28). Protest Movements and political change in the Arab world. Carnegie Endowment. Retrieved from http://www.carnegieendowment.org/files/OttawayHamzawy_Outlook_Jan11_ProtestMovements.pdf

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12 Responses to Readings on Tunisia for April 19/20

  1. Dylan P. says:

    I found the article on women in Tunisia to be really interesting. It presented a complex perspective on the social, cultural, and motivational roles that go into Islamic traditions for women and how they compare to Western perceptions of the same activities. What I had not considered was the varied interpretations of wearing the hijab and how one’s perspective informs those. Before reading this piece, I thought of the hijab as a purely religious item. With that in mind I was still a big proponent of women’s ability to make her own decision about whether or not to wear religious garments. It seemed to me that forcing someone to wear or not wear something is equally s oppressive. Forcible liberation is hardly liberating and certainly does no empower people to make their own decisions or determine their own identity. Also, I had not considered before this article that wearing the hijab could be an act of protest. In many ways it is a powerful symbol of the rejection of colonial rule. Embracing one’s heritage in such a dedicated and visible way can make a powerful statement about allegiances and rejects an oppressor’s power to over-determine the oppressed. In a way the west tells Islamic women not to worry about their silly customs anymore because they have received the better ways of the west. By committing to the hijab Muslim women participate in the similar reasoning that led Angela Davis to grow her iconic Afro. They tell the world that they don’t have to bow to European ideas of style or beauty. They can if they like, but because they like, not because they have to.

  2. Leslie H. says:

    In the “Protest movements and political change in the Arab world” article, the author concludes by saying that “the protest movement in the region also has severe limitations in its current state” because “it is not an organized, cohesive movement in any country, let alone through the region. Rather, in each country studied, the discontent that drives the protest is manifested in a large number of distinct episodes—strikes, demonstrations, and other forms of protests—that do not build on each other.”

    This concept of “building” on each other is something we discussed extensively in our classes last semester regarding the “Occupy” movements that spread across the country and world from Wall Street to Little Rock to Paris. What could be done to move these individual protests to concrete change in America? Unfortunately, we were not really able to come up with an answer to that question, and we’ve seen the “Occupy” movements fizzle in the past few months (at least when measured by media coverage and general awareness of the movement). However Occupy Little Rock still has its campsite near the Clinton School and still hold meetings, etc. I am interested to see how it continues to play out–how they will move forward and at what point they will feel their goals are accomplished.

    Another thing this article made me think of is the difference between a “moment” and a “movement.” Is “Occupy” a moment or a movement? Is Tunisia a moment or a movement? Where is the line between the two and how do we use moments as catalysts for movements? I wish I had the answers to these questions. As frustrating as it can be to those of us who want to make careers out of creating social change, I think the intangible key to social change movements is, as the author called them, the “imponderable catalyst.” That unknown spark that can happen at anytime, seemingly out of nowhere. Sometimes it is because conditions become so intolerable that the general population can no longer withstand the consequences; sometimes it is because the right group of people finally join together; perhaps sometimes it is even because the heavens perfectly align; but whatever the cause, this intangible factor of social change is what makes each movement unique, like a fingerprint that will never be exactly replicated.

  3. sydneykshearer says:

    The article Protest movements and Political change in the Arab World provided a great overview of both the recent uprising in Tunisia as well as the Arab world as a whole. Over the course of the past year or so there have been a number of similar uprisings, most grouped in what the media is calling the “Arab Spring.” While this rise in tensions in the region has been on the increase in the last year, protests, strikes, and other demonstrations have been growing in number for the last decade. What is interesting about the fight for social change in this region of the world, however, is that it has been difficult to create much change because of the lack of a clear agenda. There are a number of different players involved in these uprisings and each has a different interest. Without this kind of consensus it seems as if these protests could go on forever un-availed.

    This lack of a clear message is not uncommon to social movements, however. The Civil Rights Movement, as successful as it eventually was, had many different ideological viewpoints within it. In order to move past this stalemate of protests and mixed messages, it seems that some kind of platform needs to be created; clearer messages need to be drafted. I am interested in what kinds of tactics might be used to engage so many different viewpoints into a conversation about how to bring about real, lasting change. Is this era of social change too diverse for consensus and what does that mean for the future of similar movements?

  4. andreadp12 says:

    The protest in Tunsicia in December of 2012 began in poor tribal regions of the country when a young man in his twenties set himself on fire after being humiliated by local police. The beginning of the uprising in Tunisia came from a very unlikely source and a very unlikely region. The fact that this resistance did not start in a city or a place where wealth is concentrated is powerful for me. The young man’s act was drastic, but it sparked something within many Tunisian citizens that Ben Ali were not expecting.

    This young man, whose name was not mentioned in the article, started something that many in Tunisian and around the world did not see coming. This young man protested how he was treated, but once the protest spread throughout the country, the focus of the movement changed. The others who joined in the movement protested “high unemployment rates, the rising cost of food, basic services”, and eventually political protest ensued. Additionally, people seemed to have different reason for joining in the movement. “Activists from the labor unions, professional syndicates, young political bloggers, journalists”, and Twitter and Facebook protesters joined the movement. Together, their voices were heard loudly and clearly.

    The principle of unbuntu is clearly at play here. “The young man in his twenties” actions speak to the interconnectedness of people and how no matter how hard we try to act as individuals or in isolation, others in some way can be affected. As a public servant, I must always keep in mind that the decisions I make and the actions I take can be more impactful than I can imagine. It is so amazing that a nameless man helped start a revolution.

  5. andreadp12 says:

    http://www.carnegieendowment.org/files/OttawayHamzawy_Outlook_Jan11_ProtestMovements.pdf

    The protest in Tunisia began in December of 2010 in poor tribal regions of the country when a young man in his twenties set himself on fire after being humiliated by local police. The beginning of the most current uprising in Tunisia came from a very unlikely source and a very unlikely region. The fact that this resistance did not start in a city or a place where wealth is concentrated is powerful for me. The young man’s act was drastic, but it sparked something within many Tunisian citizens that the regime and Ben Ali were not expecting.

    This young man, whose name was not mentioned in the article, started something that many in Tunisian and around the world did not see coming. This young man protested how he was treated, but once the protest spread throughout the country, the focus of the movement changed. The others who joined in the movement protested “high unemployment rates, the rising cost of food, basic services”, and eventually political protest ensued. People seemed to have different reason for joining in the movement. “Activists from the labor unions, professional syndicates, young political bloggers, journalists”, and Twitter and Facebook protesters joined” the movement. Together, their voices were heard loudly and clearly.

    The principle of unbuntu is clearly at play here. “The young man in his twenties” actions speak to the interconnectedness of people and how no matter how hard we try to act as individuals or in isolation, others in some way can be affected. As a public servant, I must always keep in mind that the decisions I make and the actions I take can be more impactful than I can imagine. It is so amazing that a nameless man helped start a revolution.

  6. Katie Milligan says:

    Colonial Legacy, Women’s Rights and Gender-Educational Inequality in the Arab World with particular reference to Egypt and Tunisia

    This article was a good comparison of the fact and fiction in the cases of gender in Egypt and Tunisia. Much like any other country, religious and cultural beliefs shape the formation of gender roles and “oppression”. This article reminded me of a discussion from a previous semester on cultural norms vs. violation of human rights. It is a very “Western” idea to suggest that a hijab is oppressive to women. I found in increasingly interesting that many women wore it as a symbol of resistance to the spread of Western ideas. It just reinforced my belief that Westerners can be incredibly narcissistic. History has shown that we repeatedly impose value systems and beliefs on the outside world, but are unbelievably slow to accept ideas that do not hatch within our own borders. The cartoon below really put into perspective the idea that oppression can be very subjective. When did it become our place to decide what is oppressive and what is cultural? I just would like to know when the West became the judge and the jury for the rest of the world; my guess is that is colonialism at its finest hour.

    http://hourglassera.wordpress.com/2011/01/23/bikini-vs-hijab/

    That being said, I think this article does a relatively good job of making the distinction between what Egyptians and Tunisians view as oppression and what Westerners view as oppression. I think the contrasts to advancements in the education and economic positions of women in Tunisia, compared to Egypt, put a nail in the coffin for anyone that wants to argue that continued colonialism is a good thing. Tunisia is by no means a perfect example of Middle Eastern gender equality, but the fact that “Equal Pay Day” exists in our own country does bode well for Americans. Women get paid 75¢ to every man’s $1?! My friends, I would label that as oppressive.

    • Britney Sink says:

      I just saw you posted about Equal Pay Day too! Also, I was telling Veena and Nathan about the bikini vs. hijab picture during our study group this week- totally on the same page!

  7. Britney Sink says:

    Megahed and Lack’s article about women’s rights and gender-educational inequality in Tunisia and Egypt recounts several waves of gains for women’s rights. However, it also points out that overall, gender equity is falling in both countries. When I think about people’s rights, I have a tendency to think that if a cause has gained enough traction for a law, amendment, or act to be passed in its favor, it will not lose that footing. Instead, regression seems to be the current trend for women’s rights, not progress. Although advances such as legalization of abortion in Tunisia all the way back in 1973 and Egypt’s reforms in the early 2000s have provided some pushes forward, that same progress has stalled in recent years. The idea that allowing women to travel without permission from a male is considered too radical for implementation is a sure sign that more needs to be done.

    The article reminded me of the climate for women’s rights in the United States right now. Many of the issues the authors bring up, including male administrators and low female enrollment in traditionally male dominated fields like science and technology are problems in the United States as well. With the coverage of the race to the Republican nomination for President, many similar issues for women’s rights have come to light. Several conservative politicians and political voices have pushed for a return to more “traditional” values about what a woman should do and how she should behave. Contraception and birth control coverage on insurance has been debated largely only by men. Laws illegalizing abortion have been pushed and passed in several states. Unfortunately, Roe v. Wade back in 1973 was not enough.

    The United States tends to sometimes push reform on other countries as backwards in relation to “American Democracy,” but we do a poor job of “walking the talk.” As bad at that phrase sounds, the hypocrisy inherent in how Americans judge places like Tunisia and Egypt is astounding. It is timely that Equal Pay Day to support equal wages for women in the workplace occurred this week on Tuesday, April 17. America has not even attained the goal of paying women the same amount as men for the same work yet.

  8. Matt Lyon says:

    Tunisia’s Economic Challenges

    In the years leading up to the Jasmine Revolution, Tunisia had fared better economically than many of its Arab neighbors, in part due to a diversified economy and a successful family planning initiative. It had a strong GDP and lucrative tourism industry, as well as a relatively secular public sphere. So why did the revolution in Tunisia happen in the first place? I think it can most easily be described as a distortion of numbers. GDP is seen by some economists as the benchmark statistic in identifying prosperous nations. But we must remember that this is the aggregate number. So, for example, a prosperous beachside resort town is easily able to balance a desperately poor rural desert town. The bulk of financial resources reside in the coastal communities and within Tunis. Therefore what, from 30,000 feet, looks like a prosperous nation is in reality a country with huge disparities. These disparities bubbled to the service when the flower merchant self-immolated in December 2010. The article suggests that the uprising was a surprise to everyone. Everyone except the revolutionaries. While it is true that economic disparity is prevalent throughout the world, Tunisia somehow capitalized and humanized this universal human struggle and made history. I think this story underlines the impact of the economy and economics of a situation.

    The suggestions made in moving forward after the revolution are all economically related. Remove barriers to business. Develop high-technology jobs. Look at socially just economic policies for rural areas. It is extremely important to recognize both macro and micro economics and understand what is said between the numbers. As some of us may go on to policy work, economics becomes a fundamental aspect of creating sound policy, and it behooves us to understand economics just as much, if not more than, social change. Indeed, the economics behind the theory are the engines of successful social change.

  9. Jake says:

    Much has written about the momentum and elation that spread across the Arab world as a result of Tunisia’s grassroots uprising. Less has been said of the the relatively free elections Tunisia held last November and what that could mean for other countries in the region. Compared to the election held in Iraq (that were backed by a military occupation and ongoing civil war); the mess that Egypt has fallen into Tahrir Square; the sectarian infighting of Libya; and the ongoing civil war in Syria, the transition that Tunisia has made from brutal dictatorship to relatively free elections is staggering. What accounts for this? Of course each situation is unique and local context matters, but I wonder what circumstances have allowed for this kind of transition. Is it because of the economic issues with a diversified economy and a successful family planning initiatives…already there is talk about the return of tourism to Tunisia. Or are other factors more important?

  10. Nuno Solano de Almeida says:

    Tunisia Economic Challenges

    Tunisia faces huge challenges in times ahead. Particularly the government needs to start stimulating the private sector. In order to do that, funding is required to invest in innovation and training to meet the market standards.
    The economy is a priority and particularly public spending, tax reform and public service. Education disparities across the landscape should be the first reform.
    Like in many other situations similar to this one, the concern as viewed from the outside is always to attend to the peoples needs, especially after a revolution.
    The author attacks corruption, since that will already be consensual enough for the readers, and particularly his readers in Tunisia, to find common ground.
    These proposed reforms are just the basic liberalization of the regulations, privatization of the public capital as well as extending welfare to traditionally disenfranchised communities. Proposals to reform education and tourism, considering tourism was always a major source of income to the State and education reform is a Christian democrat doctrinarian idea, do not bring anything new.
    Communication services again, is also copying the idea of Chinese foreign direct investment in African partnering countries.
    Generally speaking controlling inflation, currency value and streamline taxes is more a priority in a free trade area, which is hardly the case for any Maghreb countries. Of course Tunisia will want to join the WTO and start preferred trade agreements with the EU but exports are not their traditional source of income yet.
    The planned economy of Ben Ali suffered from a serious convolution after his marriage with Leila Trabelsi, the powerful family that took over key jobs in public affairs. This is still a marginal issue of international analysis, but that played a big role in the lack of jobs to the highly trained urban population.
    The consequences of the jasmine Revolution translated into a cost higher than expected, in part due to the crisis in the Middle East and the return of refugees.
    The government planned a sort of “New Deal” approach was temporarily postponed by the replacement of Ghannouchi and the prospect of Ennahda (Renaissance Party, moderately Islamic). Ghannouchi, leader of Ennahda has tried to assure the west about not introducing the sharia in the New Tunisian Constitution. However there is concern about a regression to the a more radical society, with women going back to wear a veil, more restrictions on alcohol sales. Tunisia faces challenges to control the more marginal sides in society and the forecast to return to the 5% GDP growth a year in 2012 seems highly overrated.

  11. Veena says:

    “Tunisia’s Economic Challenges” by Lahcen Achy

    I found the author’s discussion of the need to redistribute the tax burden interesting in light of Congress’ decision not to pass the “Buffett Rule” on Monday. The “Buffett Rule” is an attempt to require millionaires and billionaires, like Warren Buffett, to pay higher taxes in correlation with their higher earnings. It makes me wonder how, if the United States cannot redistribute its tax burden, we can expect a turbulent country like Tunisia to be able to push through something like this, particularly in light of the corruption that runs rampant throughout the country. Achy discusses the prevalence of corruption and tax evasion that occurs amongst the higher echelon of Tunisian society that has thus prevented an equal distribution of the tax burden.

    I was also intrigued by the commentary on the lack of jobs for a more educated youth population. India faced a similar problem about 15 years ago, and that is why, in addition to the call centers, a plethora of software development companies flared up. India was graduating more and more engineering students, and many of them were moving to the US to pursue jobs simply because the Indian market was not able to keep up. With the influx of powerful software companies such as Apple and IBM, however, these graduates were able to find jobs in India and remain in country. When Achy presented this as a solution for Tunisia, I couldn’t help but think of the success just such a venture had had in India.

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