When Tunisians decided to overthrow the former system five years ago and be the change they wanted to see for their country, they were the ones responsible for its progress towards a democratic and just country, and they hoped their profound aspirations would be realized. Responsibility grew and youth of Tunisia awoke. Young Tunisians took part in several communitarian activities and raised their voices with no more fear. Their strength showed, touching the hearts of millions while facing injustice, challenges and fighting for human rights. Tunisians stood still.
Now in this post-revolutionary Tunisia, youth still play a pivotal role throughout this transition, helping to restore their Tunisia. Little has been done and more is still to come. Like any other community, it depends on its youth’s actions, thoughts and beliefs. Many young activists try to mobilize others for the causes they believe in, such as gender equality, freedom, human rights, education, racism and healthcare. This dynamic process will surely be the fruit of tomorrow’s Tunisia. Certainly, youth development is a journey and not a destination as many are presuming.
Having such a brisk transition from non-active or barely active youth in the community to active youth may have caused problems and controversy on the subject. At first-and because of the political issues Tunisia was dealing with-young Tunisians may have realized the importance of being active political life and having political views and principles, especially in the early days after the fall of Ben Ali.
“I wanted to build a new Tunisia that reflects me and my generation. I wanted to lead it towards being a democratic country, ” said Ghada, a 24-year-old, former member of the Democratic Patriots’ Unified Party. Ghada wasn’t the only one who was deceived by the political path that Tunisia was taking. She added: “I wasn’t happy with all the changes that were happening at the time. Worse than this, seeing that a revolution made by us [the youth of Tunisia] resulted with an assembly of very old people is very disappointing.”
Even though the Tunisian revolution was the fruit of young Tunisians and they actively participated in political life, a lack of representation in the Constituent Assembly and within political parties persists. It is as if the youth were used for political purposes and their hope was stolen from them. Many Tunisians are still fighting and standing against possible corruptions and injustice.
Young Tunisians were also very present in community life. Youth wanted to enroll, volunteer and be active all for the sake of their country and for themselves. Several organizations were born since the so-called “Jasmin Revolution”, standing for several causes and creating controversies and debates in the fields of human rights, gender equality, transparency and mobilization against corruption, social development, humanitarian actions, sustainable development, decentralization and many more …
Mariem Ben Yahia; a brilliant 25-year-old, freshly graduated engineering student, is a very active person who is willing to change or at least try to change her beloved country for the best. Very thoroughly involved, she was present and lead many projects and associations. For example, she is the Founder of the project of “Youth Councils in Tunisia”*. When asked about youth in Tunisia and their role to shape their community-especially after the Tunisian revolution-she said:
“To be honest, I have to say that I am very disappointed in my country and the youth, myself included. I feel like we missed our chance in history, to really make change… a crucial one. We have only followed what others have done before us. We lack of courage, self-confidence, and have poor initiative. And I find that very frustrating.”
Mariem has strong believes that youth (not only in Tunisia) need to stand up for themselves and to not wait for others to hand them their freedom.
Many young Tunisians are aware of their passive role in the community. Also, many of them express the feeling of insecurity to act or take initiative. One positive thing for sure, is that Tunisians after the revolution have opened up about many issues and now dare to talk and defend their beliefs. They now dare to talk about gender equality out loud, about women’s harassment or even about homosexuality. All of these subjects cause polemics and sometimes disrespect towards a large group of people, leading to more violence.
The Tunisian community is facing many issues and problems every day. Mariem also shared with us her perspective about this and said that Tunisians in general love to talk about others and other countries’ issues, which makes them feel important, but never about our essential problems. Even in our daily life:
“However, we hate talking about our real problems, our real issues and about what concerns us the most. I think that this revolution explained to us that this is not only the government’s fault. We are the blame for the way Tunisia was. We are surely still in denial, afraid to face ourselves. Easier to deny the truth than to face it. Courage is what we lack.” She explained. Mariem also insisted on the importance to reform the administration and bureaucratic structures in order to insure more justice, equality, flexibility, time management and transparency.
We can’t deny the work that many associations and organizations are doing. Many are focusing on rural development and helping the poor regions in Tunisia. Others are aiming for sustainable development, contributing to help build a better community and to address general interests. Youth is the key for the growth and evolution of any community. The Tunisian revolution has given youth the opportunity to go over and build a community reflecting them, their beliefs, with all of their diversity.
(*): Youth Councils in Tunisia is one of the small associations/projects, built in 2013, in collaboration with Poland, which aims to encourage youth for communitarian activities, sustainable development and youth initiatives.