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ADI/CAAR supporting capacity building to improve social equity during COVID-19

ADI/CAAR supporting capacity building to improve social equity during COVID-19

As COVID-19 has intensified in Tunisia over the past three months, the Alfred Deakin Institute has supported seven innovative new pilot projects to build the capacity of Tunisian NGOs improving social equity for marginalised communities.

This work was undertaken in partnership with the Council for Australian-Arab Relations, which is part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

‘The programme was initially designed to bring a group of activists to Australia for intensive training last year to help build their capacity to address the social inequalities in Tunisia’, said Professor Fethi Mansouri, the project’s leader, ‘but we had to quickly pivot as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold’.

The alternative programme, instead, has worked to support the participants build their capacity through the development, implementation, and evaluation of seven pilot projects in Tunisia. These centre on addressing issues facing marginalised children and young people and rural women, as well as raising awareness of socio-economic and environmental issues facing the country.

But COVID-19 also challenged the alternative programme. It ran for three months, from 15 March to 16 June this year, during which time Tunisia experienced intensifying rates of COVID-19, leaving it with the highest infection and death rate in Africa (Guardian 2021). As a result, the participants navigated full lockdowns, school closures, nightly curfews, travel and other restrictions as they worked to deliver their projects. These presented a range of challenges as many of the participants sought to engage with schools, film footage for documentaries, conduct research with rural and remote communities, and build relations with municipalities.

Furthermore, the pandemic has worsened many of the social problems the participants sought to help address through their projects. ‘Since 2011, successive Tunisian governments have largely failed to address the social and economic inequalities that spurred the Revolution. This has placed NGOs in the frontline of delivering social services and helping marginalised communities. But the NGOs themselves have limited capacity to meet these enormous needs, and now, the COVID-19 pandemic has put increasing pressure on them’, Professor Mansouri said.

One participant, Fatma Amri, project co-ordinator at Organisation Volonté et Citoyenneté, highlighted that ‘in Tunisia we have been facing economic issues since 2011 and now it’s deeper than before’. Imen Affi, Environmental Programme Co-ordinator at Development and Natural Resources Association, also argues that since COVID-19 hit ‘the lack [of job] opportunities are becoming greater than before’, especially for young people, and it’s creating a lot of ‘negative energy’.

Yet, because of, rather than despite these challenges, participants highlighted how completing their pilot projects under this pressure helped them hone their flexibility, creative thinking, and communications skills. For example, to keep his project going Mohamed Falfoul, founder of YOUTH CLUBs Association, said ‘we came up with several ways to connect with each other and exchange ideas’, and it helped to ‘create concise and structured documents and sharing them’.

This capacity building initiative was partially supported by the Commonwealth through the Council for Australian-Arab Relations, which is part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

For further information, please contact:

Professor Fethi Mansouri


Telephone: +61 3 924 43914


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