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Arab women making slow strides

Tunisia has served as a regional example for Arab women in politics, but the Arab world still falls behind in global studies and much work remains to be done.
Members of the Tunisian parliament celebrate after approving the country's new constitution in the assembly building in Tunis January 26, 2014. Tunisia's national assembly approved the country's new constitution on Sunday in one of the final steps to full democracy three years after protests erupted into an uprising that toppled autocrat Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi (TUNISIA - Tags: POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTX17W7W

Arab women are increasingly present in public life, contrary to widespread misconceptions about the region. This is at least what Youssef Courbage, research director at the French National Institute for Demographic Studies (INED), contends. The combined effects of delayed marriages, high enrollment rates in universities, access to contraception and decreased fertility (i.e., the number of children per women) has led to the emergence of women from the family sphere and entry into the labor market and politics.

In an interview with Al-Monitor, Courbage dated this evolution to the early 1970s. He cited Morocco as a case in point, where the percentage of single women in the 30-34 age bracket has soared from 5% in the late 1960s to 33% today. Likewise, traditional marriages that often involve marrying into a clan or tribe continue to plummet, from 30% in 1995 to 15% today. Female political participation is best exemplified in Tunisia, where women represent more than 31% of members of parliament, up from 28% in 2011. By way of comparison, a mere 18% of national legislature seats are held by women in the United States and 27% in France.

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