Women account for 30 % of Tunisia’s active population in 2010. They contribute actively to boosting the development process and achieving objectives hoped-for, particularly achieving an economic growth rate of over 5% a year, creating income sources, increasing the per-capita income to 5,000 dinars, reducing the poverty rate to 3.8% and limiting the unemployment rate to less than 14%.
The prime position held by Tunisian women at the economic level reflects pertinently their ever-increasing role in achieving the comprehensive development process.
The total number of women entrepreneurs is estimated at 18,000, operating in the sectors of handicrafts (11%), services (41%), industry (25%) and trade (22%).
Tunisian women’s access to the world of business dates back to the 70’s. They entered the business sphere in an organised manner, owing that to the various measures and incentives decided for their benefit, triggering the start of a new era in which women became officials, leaders and business managers.
This drive has been strengthened over the past decade in view of the interest taken by the State in economic promoters, private initiative and creation of reliable projects.
The policy adopted, in this regard, has thus encouraged Tunisian women to conquer the world of business, without fearing any form of discrimination. Tunisia has established an appropriate environment to stimulate private initiative, through backup structures for creation of enterprises, business centres, incubators, spin-offs, financial assistance structures and tax and customs advantages.
Most women business managers are forty-year old, according to a survey conducted by the National Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs.
Actually, university graduates are attracted by creating business, particularly as part of university- enterprise partnership.
Tunisian women invest in several fields, namely, information and communication technologies (ICTs), services, consulting, advertisement, audio-visual, software ,etc…).
According to the same survey, most of women entrepreneurs are married and mothers of at least two children (70%). This shows that Tunisian women are able to reconcile family and professional life, contrary to prejudices. The survey also shows that over 74.5 % of women entrepreneurs have a higher education level and more than 87 % among them have managed to set up their businesses without relying on family property.
Besides, enterprises run by women are highly productive and have a well-thought-out financing policy, a strategic positioning adapted to the economic situation and a capacity to command ICTs.
Another study conducted, in 2008, by the Centre for Arab Women Training and Research (CAWTAR), as part of regional partnership, on women entrepreneurs in Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and Lebanon, ranked Tunisian businesswomen first in creation of job opportunities.
Despite all these assets, women entrepreneurs in Tunisia still face several problems, including low adherence to different support programmes, particularly upgrading programmes and lack of efficient accountancy and financial system.
The concerned authorities are seeking to iron out these difficulties, by laying emphasis on developing management methods of enterprises run by women and prompting their opening on the regional and international economic environment.
Efforts are also exerted to guarantee a better involvement of women in technological fields — marketing, computer-assisted management, websites’ creation — as they show increasing interest for exporting their products, such as management software and others dedicated to children.
The National Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs plays a key role in this area, through its action in partnership with the Fund of Access to Foreign Markets (FAMEX).
These two structures work together to help women entrepreneurs market their products, export more and step up their participation in events organised abroad.
According to observers, the role played by women entrepreneurs in economic development could be further enhanced thanks to Tunisia’s firm political will and its conviction that there is neither progress nor development without women’s participation.