In 2011, Tunisia witnessed the beginning of multiple social and political changes - yet their long-term impact is still waiting to be seen. Meanwhile, Tunisia faces many difficulties.
Unemployment is commonplace, and as a result the economy has been damaged. People from rural areas having to live in poverty and struggle with social exclusion.
As the numbers of tourists deteriorates, unemployment is worsening
The town of Akouda is home to approximately 22,000 people, and is on the central-eastern Tunisian coast. SOS Children's Village Akouda can be found on the edge of town, just a short way from the seaport Sousse.
Tourism is the central factor of the local economy; however there are large olive groves established in the region as well. The coastal areas have tended to remain relatively wealthy, compared to the poverty-stricken centre of the country. However, Tunisia’s 2011 ‘Jasmine Revolution’, resulted in a decrease for the tourism industry, which is still affected today.
A country in transition
Tunisia is still in transition. For many impoverished communities, this has meant that their lives have had to get worse before it is possible to improve. About 1.2 million Tunisians are living below the national poverty line, and more than 18% of the workforce are without employment. Young people have taken the worst impact. For instance, up to 44% of young university students cannot find any work, and more than 30% of people aged between15-24 are unemployed.
A 40-hour week has a minimum monthly wage of approximately $142. We can see the effects of this low-income through the items that are owned: 22.7% of Tunisians own a car, and only 14.4% are in possession of a computer. The change of government, however, has bought improvement, as Tunisians now have the ability to use the internet with no limitations on content.
Children belonging to deprived families battle for fair, equal chances in life
Thousands of people migrate to cities every year, because of such high levels of poverty in rural Tunisia. Sousse is a particularly popular destination, which attracts millions of tourists bringing wealth to the region. Yet, housing and employment are not accessible to all.
A considerable number of young men resort to what is known as ‘Bezness’. This involves searching for single European women, solely for the purpose of marriage for money or a visa. It is also not uncommon to find people gathering plastic on the streets which they can then sell for about $0.2 per kilo.
Finally, Sousse is home to a large informal economy, which consists of various vendors, market traders and tourist guides. No taxes are paid by these people, they also receive no support in the case of illness and are not insured – but for the majority, this is the only way that they can support their family.
Primary school enrolment rates are now significantly higher at 94.5%, and on the whole equal for both boys and girls. However, nearly 20% of the population have never received any kind of education in their lives. Children who have parents without a formal job or an education, unfortunately tend to begin life at a much greater disadvantage than others. This reinforces why their families need our support, so that their children can grow up to be confident, outstanding adults.
SOS Children in Akouda
We first started working in Akouda on 2010. Our SOS social centre has a family strengthening programme available, for any struggling members of the community that need help. This makes sure that all children can access necessary education, health and nutritional services, and counselling is on offer where it is required.
We can also provide parents with guidance and advice about income-generating skills and parenting practices. Due to working alongside local organisations, we aim to strengthen the already existing support networks available to the community. At the moment, about 300 children and adult caregivers are benefitting from our programme.
A new loving home for orphaned and abandoned children
14 SOS families provide a safe and secure home for up to 112 children who are unable to live with their parents. Each family keeps siblings together and all are lovingly looked after by their SOS mother. Surrounded by olives trees, the children enjoy joining in on the harvesting and picking olives.
All children living in the SOS Children's Village go to the local nursery along with children from our family strengthening programme and the wider community. As a result, children from SOS families become part of the local community from an early age.
Children in Akouda are given hope for a bright future. Growing up in SOS Families, they receive all they need to thrive. Will you sponsor a child in Tunisia today?