International Women’s Day Part III: The Young & Progressive in Tunisia
The final installment of our blog series celebrating International Women’s Day finishes in Tunisia, with two empowered young women, destined to become future leaders in their country.
You might ask yourself: Why has Search, a peacebuilding organization, dedicated decades to women’s empowerment? For one, women are key voices in the pursuit of peace. In Liberia, a group of women put the pressure on the politicians to make peace. Second, violence is not only physical action like war or domestic abuse. Ways of thinking and talking can be violent. Laws can be violent. When we seek women’s empowerment, we’re working to end violence against women in all its forms.
Take Tunisia, for example. Women played an instrumental role in the 2011 revolution. Since then, Search has been building up women leaders for peace.
Nour El Houda Bayou, 30, and Rania Jmii, 31, serve on Search’s Youth Leadership Councils. Both young women attended Search’s recent National Youth Leaders Meeting. The initiative brought together youth leaders of different regions, ideologies, political affiliations, and religious views for the first time at the national level. Nour and Rania were kind enough to share their thoughts how Search’s leadership project in Tunisia has impacted their lives.
How are women traditionally perceived and treated in your community?
Nour: There is no real equity and equality between men and women. Women have a lot of rights in Tunisia compared to other Arab countries, but we are not necessarily respected.
Rania: It is far from the level required… Some women are their own worst enemy; they believe that they are naturally inferior to men.
What have you learned from working with Search?
How do you feel youth council has impacted your life?
Rania: Through this experience I realized that the disagreements, clashes, and disputes are just futile. The group’s interest is what is most important.
What is your favorite thing about being on the council?
Nour: The very strong relationships I have built with youths not only in Zaghouan, but at a national level. We share the same mind-set; we saw and felt this during the first national meeting.
Rania: The success of the first round table was just unbelievable. The number of attendees and the interest they showed… was amazing. This will remain as a special moment in my mind.
What progress have you seen since being on the youth council?
Nour: We think, we commit, and then we act. We now know where we want to go and have a strategy.
Rania: The cohesion of the group is strong and the intellectual skills have improved. We are moving really fast towards our goals.
How do you see yourself as a leader now in your community and what do you hope to accomplish?
Nour: The civil society now shares our ideas and perspectives on the different issues in Zaghouan. Our work model is inspiring new associations. We are well known and trustworthy. Our objective is to be a link between all the civil society organizations in Zaghouan and to try to efficiently work and change together.
Rania: I can convince and transform my idea into reality. For the interest of my region, especially the youth, I’m working with the youth council to improve conditions at the local level.
If there is one thing you want people to know, what would it be?
Rania: Search’s program has literally changed my life. You must believe in your full potential and what you can really achieve by committing to your values and ambition!
On International Women’s Day, we recognize women making a difference. Nour and Rania are two such women. They rejected restrictive cultural norms and took hold of their own destinies. These women are natural born leaders, and their presence on the Youth Leadership Council helps to solidify women’s place in Tunisia’s future political structure. So let’s celebrate these women! Happy International Women’s Day!!!
For more information on our projects in Tunisia click here.