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Sexual violence prevents girls reaching the schools!

Following the departure of the former president Ben Ali, Tunisia has entered an emergency situation. A few days after he left, we started hearing about rape, kidnapping and violence against girls and women. More than two years after Tunisia’s revolt, the violence has only intensified and the violations have reached young girls more than adults.

The picture is as simple as the dream of any Tunisian child to pursue an education. Yet, it also holds sadness, fatigue and fear. The girl is not only striving for a dream but also combating poverty; a situation that even the revolution did not change for her. She has the same old board to write on with chalk, living in the same tiny house with her family and receiving the same way of teaching. She might not know yet her rights for a decent life, education and job but she only knows that she has to go to school to fulfill her dream. When we have usually been asked, “what would you like to be when you grow up?” the most common reply would be “teacher, pilot or doctor”. I wondered what this girl on the image is dreaming of now, I wanted to talk to her but as soon I approached her while capturing the picture, she closed the door.

I don’t blame her for doing that; actually I am happy she did! Because unfortunately today, she is threatened by sexual violence at any time and any place.

Recently, a three-year-old girl was raped by a caretaker at a children’s nursery in a Tunis suburb. As a reaction, protesters took the streets in front of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs demanding the resignation of Minister Sihem Badi, accusing her of defending the nursery and failing to protect children’s rights. This is a case of rape among many that have occurred at other facilities under the ministry’s authority. However, will the minister’s resignation be the solution and stop any kind of violence or aggression against young girls? Or will this behavior become as normalized as raping women? Ms. Badi said that a member of the girl's family was to blame and that no measures against the nursery were needed. Consequently, this means taking the side of the violator and not the violated.

I've just mentioned this case of rape because I wonder, what educational future these girls will have if they cannot be safe going to school? how can we talk about education quality, institutions and curriculum while a lot of girls cannot even reach the school? Rape is one example but they might not reach the school because of poverty, cultural norms, patriarchy, war and conflict among other factors...

This story was written for World Pulse’s Girls Transform the World Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring girls greater access to education which will transform their lives, their families, and communities. The Girls Transform Campaign elicits insightful content from young women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as women, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
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Cali gal Michelle's picture

I think this might be the

I think this might be the first entry from Tunisia I've seen here. Thank you for this brave heart-wrenching story. What steps do you know of that could be taken to provide safety in education for these girls? I would be interested to hear what your vision is. Thank you, Aya!

Let us Hope together-
aka: Cali gal


Aya Chebbi's picture

collaboration is the solution

Thank you for your comment dear Michelle. I believe in a country like mine going through a democratic transition, everything is related to economy, politics and security which are eventually inter-related.
1.The security system is not yet in place to guarantee the safety of not only young girls but also adults. So, the Ministry of Interior has to do its job and provide the needed security to each citizen.
2. Urgent action plan has to take place for children including girls and should be led by the Ministry of Women and Family in collaboration with civil society organizations.
3. Regular control has to be provided in public service including schools and special mechanism and codes have to be defined to report sexual violence or violations of girls in schools.

Those are my top priorities but not limited to the endless work that should be done to protect girls. I believe that prevention is very important but even when the violation takes place, the follow up is as important as its prevention! millions of girls around the world have been raped with no statistics or reports on their violations.


Aya Chebbi
Proudly Tunisian

SamanthaKeller's picture

is there a solution?

I am shocked to hear that any governmental agency would not defend a 3-year old child in that situation. How terrible. Thank you for sharing this story, as stomach turning as it is. I am not familiar with the education policy in Tunisia, is there a theoretical access to free education for all?

Do you believe that there is a solution to girls living in constant fear of violation in their pursuit of education?


Dear Samantha,

Thank you for your observation. Education in Tunisia is supposed to be free and accessible to all. However, I don't believe statistics of our government as I've visited areas where I've seen young girls home while their brothers are in school or because wolves might each them on the way to school as the nearest one is an hour walking!!
The solution is in hands of both decision makers and society. We need reinforced protective laws and we need also a change in the mentality of violators.


Aya Chebbi
Proudly Tunisian

tiffany_anne's picture

A Thoughtful Piece

This is terribly sad, there is nothing more upsetting than violence towards children, out most vulnerable. That being said, I appreciate your thoughts and ideas about the situation, and mostly how you look at the issue from a first-hand, on-the-ground point of view. I also enjoyed your thoughtful responses to the questions posed in the previous comments, they are almost as informative and interesting as your original piece. Thank you again for sharing, and much love to your country as you move forward.


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