THE EARTH TIMES
OCTOBER 31, 1994
Family Planning in Tunisia: A center of excellence
By Ashali Varma
In a region noted for having some of the world’s highest rates of population growth, Tunisia is one country beginning to reap the benefits of a 30-year commitment to family planning and women’s rights. The population growth rate has dropped from about 3 percent, in 1966, down to 1.9 percent in 1992.
According to Nabiha Gueddana, the Director General, Office National de la Famille et de la Population, “The success of the Tunisian experience is based on a strong political commitment, legislation to empower women and a family planning program that offers quality service at all levels.”
Tunisia is the only Arab and Muslim country that allows unrestricted abortions for women but only in the first three months of pregnancy and only in a hospital or authorized clinic. Since 1973 when this law was passed the rate of abortions has gone down.
Dr. Gueddana, who is a pediatrician and a professor of Pediatrics in the University of Tunis—and was Minister for Family and Women for two years –emphasizes the fact that the Tunisian model succeeded because from the beginning the Constitution guaranteed equal rights for women in all areas, administrative, economic and social. “This tolerance and modernization came about because Tunisia built on its rich cultural and historical diversity to have strong social programs,” she said, in an interview with The Earth Times.
“Today, 54.5 percent of married women use contraception.” Knowledge of modern contraception is virtually universal, thanks to a highly effective campaign of public education and information via radio and national television.
In a country of over 8 million people, 39 percent of whom live in rural areas, outreach efforts for all primary health services have also been expanded. Teams are assigned to make home visits and to provide education on pre-natal health, childbirth, post-natal care and family planning.
“Tunisia is a strong supporter of the South-South Partnership,” said Dr. Gueddana, “In 1990, Tunisia started an international program for training in family planning and a number of African countries took part in this including Nigeria, Morocco, Algeria and Niger.”
Dr. Gueddana went on to say, “Tunisia has been designated as a center of excellence in family planning by the United Nations Population Fund (Unfpa) and the training program is now recognized by Unfpa as an International Training Center for reproductive health and family planning and women and development.”