Working Together for More Inclusive Elections in Tunisia
Khameyel Feniche, Project Associate, IFES Office in Tunis

January 14, 2013 - IFES

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Tunisian Minister of Social Affairs Khalil Zawiya (right) and IFES Country Director Nicolas Kaczorowski display the first-ever election manual for illiterate voters in both Arabic and French.

In Tunisia, the Ministry of Social Affairs and IFES celebrated the Arab Literacy Day, January 8, by presenting the first-ever election manual for illiterate voters.

The manual is part of a civic education pilot project to increase information available to illiterate voters on elections and political processes. The project reaches voters who have enrolled in education centers managed by the ministry’s adult learning program.

“This joint project between the Ministry of Social Affairs and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems promotes the inclusion and participation of illiterate voters in elections and fosters a better understanding of the electoral process,” said Minister of Social Affairs Khalil Zawiya. “The main objective is that illiterate voters can freely and secretly choose their representative or president.”

The pilot project was launched seven months ago by IFES and the Department of Adult Learning within the Ministry of Social Affairs. Financed by the Swiss Embassy in Tunisia and the U.S. State Department’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), the program has already made an impact.

Beyond the manual, three workshops have been organized to train over 60 teachers who will use the manual to impart information on democracy, international standards, electoral processes and civil and political rights to illiterate voters. About 250 copies of the publication are being printed and will be distributed to teachers in the learning centers. Approximately 10,000 illiterate adults who have enrolled in the adult learning program in 2013 will receive election-related information that will help them become more familiar with the electoral process.

Tools have also been developed to enable participants to apply the concepts they learn in the classroom to real life. Polling station simulation kits include the pieces needed to build a transparent ballot box that learners will assemble themselves. Through this exercise, illiterate voters will learn about the principle of transparency.   

“Our joint project is a pilot; taken alone, its impact can only be limited. Additional outreach efforts are needed to further promote the participation of illiterate voters in the upcoming elections. Outreach to illiterate voters must be strengthened with the implementation of awareness-raising campaigns during the registration of voters and in the run-up to the next elections,” said Nicolas Kaczorowski, IFES country director in Tunisia. “These complementary outreach efforts will multiply the impact of our current pilot project.”

In this context, Kaczorowski stressed the need for “tripartite cooperation between the Ministry of Social Affairs, the electoral authority and IFES to implement outreach campaigns for illiterate voters before the next elections.”

Dr. Yahya Essaied, representative of the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO) in Tunisia, said he was willing to cooperate with the Tunisian Ministry of Social Affairs and IFES to disseminate the manual in other countries, such as Mauritania, Sudan, Yemen and Djibouti. He said that, as a first step, he would share this experience at the 11th conference of Arab education for learners in Cairo in April 2013.

Zawiya expressed his appreciation for the quality of the manual and educational tools, thanked the foreign partners for their support and reaffirmed his support for the signature of a tripartite agreement by the new electoral body, the Ministry of Social Affairs and IFES to implement the program.

IFES has been in Tunisia since February 2011. IFES experts assisted the Tunisian Independent High Electoral Authority to organize the National Constituent Assembly elections held on October 23, 2011. Since then, and in addition to promoting the participation of illiterate voters in future elections, IFES has provided a forum for dialogue on various electoral issues in close cooperation with the EU and UNDP electoral assistance teams; built local capacity of civil society organizations in campaign finance monitoring; and provided legal advice on the law related to the electoral authority.

Click here for more information on IFES’ work in Tunisia.

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