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FunTimes Magazine

Tunisia Independence: Carthage, Women’s Rights, and a Complex African Identity

Mar 20, 2021 08:00AM ● By Oga Africa
Happy Independence Day, Tunisia! Today we are exploring the ancient city of Carthage, first president Habib Bourguiba’s women’s rights activism, and the influence this North African country has on the world.

Tunisia is situated between Algeria and Libya. Berbers are indigenous to the region. In ancient times, Phoenicians from the Mediterranean settled along the coast. Phoenicians founded Carthage, an ancient city that was the main trading center in the Mediterranean between Italy and North Africa, due to its advantageous location in the middle of North Africa. However, its growing political power posed a threat to Rome’s plan of domination.

(A Berber woman in Tunisia)


When Carthage fell to Rome, over 50,000 Phoenicians were taken as slaves. Today, many Italians are mixed with Phoenician heritage due to this phenomenon.

Habib Bourguiba, a lawyer, revolutionary leader, and politician, persistently pushed for Tunisia’s colonial independence from France. When the country gained independence in 1956, he campaigned for women’s rights, which was radical in Tunisian society. Some of his mandates included outlawing polygamy, enforcing a minimum age for women to marry, and banning the selling of young girls.

(Habib Bourguiba)

However, societal problems arose in the country including unemployment, inflation, dictatorship, killings, and refusal to give up power. In 1975, Bourguiba announced he would be president for life. In 1987, when Bourguiba was 84, a division carried out a coup d’etat and quarantined him until his demise. 

Tunisia’s impact on the world indicates ancient intercontinental transactions in Africa, and complicates the idea of an African identity, in terms of what an African physically looks like.