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Feminist university launched in Tunisia

Published on 10/03/2009

Tunis — A rights group in Tunisia announced the opening of a "feminist university" to promote women’s causes in the north African country where at least one in five women have been beaten.

Launched on the eve of International Women’s Day, the non-academic university will be open to young people of both sexes to learn about universal human rights, values of equality and non-discrimination against women.

It will be "a place for getting involved in women’s causes," said Sana Ben Achour, president of the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women (ATFD).

Named Ilhem Marzouki University after the leading Tunisian feminist, it will offer a feminist approach to training young people in the fields of justice, health, economy, education, media and human rights, she said.

Founded 25 years ago, ATFD opened the first support centre for battered women in Tunisia.

The non-profit organisation has received a human rights award in France and some 15,000 euros (19,000 dollars) to help its work against all forms of violence and discrimination towards women.

Official figures show about 20 percent of women in Tunisia have been battered, roughly one million out of a population of six million, though experts say this underestimates the problem.

In November, the country’s women’s affairs ministry started a free hotline for victims of domestic violence to provide support and report incidents.