Since the Jasmine Revolution of 2011, Tunisian women activists have used the arts, civic entrepreneurship, and traditional crafts to transform the public sphere. Their efforts draw on Tunisia's pioneering record in matters of gender and the role of women in the formation of the state and national cultural identity. Acutely aware of the role “state feminism” played in state formation, they seek to extend the rights of women spearheaded by Bourguiba. They are redoubling their creative efforts to ensure that their role is not merely as cultural icons, pawns in a larger political game, or gender rights exemplars in the international arena – masking other forms of human rights violations.
Focusing on this shift from top-down state feminism to grassroots gender empowerment in Tunisia, this research addresses these questions: how has the public sphere been transformed? How does this activism parallel or differ from the participation of women in national formation at the time of independence? “Cultural identity” being at the forefront of debates, how has the concept of ownership of cultural heritage changed? And most importantly, how have these questions been shaped by the political factors that generated the Tunisian revolution?