Just over 10 months after the extraordinary day they toppled their dictator, the Tunisian people finally have their first democratically elected representative body. The constituent assembly, inaugurated, is not just a reflection of the peoples will but a result of decades of sacrifices and struggle. For more than 50 years, Tunisians have lived under brutal one-party rule, each attempt at breaking the stranglehold by liberals, Communists, trade unionists, Islamists, human rights activists - crushed. The party whose electoral list I headed in Tunis, the Ennahdha party, was among those most brutally persecuted, with more than 30,000 members imprisoned, hundreds killed and thousands driven into exile. Today we remember this terrible legacy that was, just last year, our daily reality. We mourned the deaths of those who gave up their lives for simply saying no to tyranny and repression. But we also look to the future one full of possibilities. The assembly, which has the task of writing our new constitution, reflects the diverse spectrum of society and can lay the foundations for a new democratic Tunisia based on the rule of law, political pluralism and respect for dignity and human rights. The elections showed Tunisians put their trust in parties like Ennahdha with a long history of struggling for democracy, and who seek a genuine break with the old regime. The attempts at stoking fears of Ennahdha before the elections by exploiting the same lies and old stereotypes spread by the former regime failed. The fact that Ennahdha contributed 42 of the 49 female candidates elected onto the Constituent Assembly an astounding 85% - speaks for itself. It is a huge achievement and a progressive precedent for other countries in the region. But we are not content with equal representation. candidates toured all corners of the country, reaching remote villages saw how far the daily reality of many women is from state propaganda, which painted a rosy picture of equality and progress. In reality, women suffer from unequal opportunities, economic insecurity, significant pay gap, poor healthcare and lack of basic amenities in a country that was hailed by many as an economic miracle. Ennahdha is committed to enabling women to enjoy real freedom of choice by promoting womens equal participation in economic, political and public life, improving education, securing equal pay, and strengthening maternity entitlement and childcare provision. There is much to be done to truly entrench democracy in Tunisia. We believe a clear separation of powers between executive, legislature and judiciary must be instituted to prevent any individual or party monopolising the political sphere, as happened under Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. Due to the exile of many of our members, we are able to draw on a rich experience of varying political systems. We believe the UK parliamentary system can provide a useful model in moving away from our previous presidential monarchy. Judicial reform is also crucial the torture and abuse of the last six decades passed through the hands of judges. Reform of the police and security forces is also needed to make sure no Tunisian will ever again be subjected to the humiliation and indignity that many of our members experienced as political prisoners. The culture of impunity must be ended and perpetrators brought to justice within a process of reconciliation that avoids collective punishment. The strengthening of civil society and independent media will also be essential to transparency and accountability. Democratic mechanisms are not, in themselves, sufficient to guarantee a life of dignity. Economic reform is key to bridging the vast gap within society, to improve the quality of life of every Tunisian. Our focus during this coming year will be on implementing an economic and social plan aimed at providing jobs for all Tunisian men and women and guaranteeing the amenities of a dignified life, achieving balanced regional development and promoting diversification and investment in all economic sectors. Opening of the constituent assembly opened a new chapter in Tunisian history based on citizen-centred governance that respects the individual, protects freedoms and promotes human dignity. We believe that building a democratic Tunisia is a joint venture that must draw on Tunisias diversity and pluralism and involve the broad spectrum of political parties and civil society. This is the first time the Arab world has witnessed such a broad coalition government, bringing together Islamist, liberal and leftwing parties. It is a historic moment, too, for the region, an opportunity to construct a genuinely open and inclusive political dialogue. It is crucial to be frank with our people the challenges are significant and require the concerted efforts of every Tunisian if we are to develop a shared democratic culture based on dialogue, acceptance of difference and equal participation. Tunisia has already led the way in the region in showing how brutal dictatorship can be brought to an end through peaceful means. We hope we can now lead the way in building a genuine democratic, pluralistic and fair society that can provide a model for the entire region. The Guardian