About women’s agency: EU support to Tunisian female associations

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Starting from an historical overview of women’s activism in Tunisia, this paper focuses on the role played by female associations during the 2011 uprising and the following transitional period as well as the European Union (EU) support to these associations. Indeed, the analysis of the period 2011-nowadays reveals the presence of a strong agency among Tunisian women; agency that contributed to make Tunisia the only ‘promising’ democratic transition among the so-called ‘Arab Springs’. Based on both document analysis and interviews on the field, this paper has a double objective. On one side, it aims at deconstructing Western stereotyped narrative about Tunisian women. Indeed, as suggested by Mohanty (1998), “under western eyes” we tend to underestimate women’s agency when it comes to social, cultural, and religious contexts different from ours.  On the other, it seeks to investigate how such a kind of narrative influences our support – both political and in terms of funding within specific Europeans policies, such as the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) – to women’s associations in loco and, by consequence, to the more general democratic transition happening in the country. Therefore, it aims at questioning the European approach to the southern neighbourhood and the “meta-narrative” (Cebeci, 2012) that has been built upon it during the years.

Keywords:  ENP, Tunisia, women, agency, Arab Spring

Clara della Valle (clara.dellavalle@santannapisa.it)

Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna (Pisa, Italy)