On January 26, 2019, the Chabiba.TN project organized a large youth gathering attended by 250 young people. The aim of the event, titled "Youth: Daring to Succeed", was to highlight successful young people who have not given into the pessimism that is widespread in Tunisia due to the deepening economic and social crisis in the country. These young people, despite the difficult context, have carved out their own path, with patience and determination, to achieving some of their dreams, setting up their own projects and initiatives that changed their lives and made them feel like active citizens rather than individuals living on the margins.
The event began with a short speech by the Chief Editor of Chabiba.TN, Mr. Salaheddine Jourchi. He stressed that the meeting would not follow the classical format of a lecture or conference, dominated by academic speeches. Instead, those attending had come to listen to young people who took initiative and succeeded, and to learn from their experiences, successes and difficulties in a critical but unstable democratic transition that generated high expectations and corresponding disappointment. How were these individuals able to turn their ideas into reality? How can we encourage and nurture individual initiatives to help Tunisians overcome the difficult domestic context?
The floor was then given to the young speakers, who shared their experiences in a few minutes each. The presentations were extraordinary and moving, bringing together very diverse experiences in terms of content, domain and the backgrounds of speakers.
1.Malek Dabouni,26 years old, Medenine, Masters graduate in journalism
Malek was born with a very rare disease, which severely impacted his bones, making them very fragile and stunting his growth. Despite these difficulties, Malek overcame the physical challenges of getting to school and the lack of any support or assistance for people with disabilities. He persevered in completing his education, obtaining a degree in journalism. He was forced to go on hunger strike and protests until he managed to get a job, and now works, while continuing his activities in civil society.
2. Kholoud Tebini, 25 years old, Tunis, debating champion
Despite suffering health problems at the age of 19, Kholoud managed to get a degree in Quality Control Management and is now preparing to launch a new food product range, alongside continuing her studies. She is active in civil society and won the first prize in the world debating championships in Qatar.
3. Ekbel Fekki, 35 years old, Sfax, owner of Ishhar Co and mother of two
Ekbel obtained an engineering degree, and specialized in landscaping. She became interested in advertising and printing, a field in which she had zero experience or training. Five years after launching her own business, a publishing and printing agency, she now employs six young people, an experience that has given her great confidence and zeal to learn and succeed.
4. Narjiss Darwish and Nazmi Jourchi, married couple
Narjiss holds a degree in biology, while Nazmi has a degree in business administration. The couple launched a company called Scap Room. They started with zero funding and faced many challenges. Today, the company is a success, having received interest from young people in particular, as the first project of its kind in Tunisia.
5. Zainab Nahdi, 31 years old, owner of the Natural Grape Juice Project
Zainab is a technician in the food industry. She overcame severe health problems to launch her own project in juice manufacturing. She won the silver medal in a national competition for food manufacturing. Her products are now available at the largest supermarket chains in Tunisia and at local shops, and she is currently seeking to enter the global market.
6. Safa Boumaiza, 28 years old, owner of a traditional handicrafts business
Safa obtained a Masters degree in psychology. She was diagnosed with a chronic disease at the age of twenty but persevered, continuing her studies and graduating with honors.
She got married, and was blessed with twins, a baby girl and boy. The boy sadly passed away and the girl was afflicted with permanent blindness. Safa overcame all these hardships to launch her own business in the field of traditional handicrafts, and is particularly known for her handmade candles.
7. Mosab Gharbi, 25 years old, owner of a pharmaceutical manufacturing company
Mosab started off studying dentistry at university before switching to political science. He was unable to complete his studies and, after spending time abroad, decided to launch his own business in manufacturing a unique style of glasses with wooden frames. He is now also the founder and owner of a company that manufactures organic cosmetics.
8.Raed Boutara, 30 years old, owner of an automobile repair shop
Raed holds a degree in mechanical engineering. He left a secure job position with a salary of 3000 dinars per month to launch his own business. He started his own automobile repair shop from scratch and now employs several workers, including previously unemployed graduates.
After the presentations by all eight entrepreneurs, two experts were invited to interact with and comment on the experiences that had been shared. Dr. Fathi Touzri, a psychiatrist and former State Secretary for Youth and Sports, commented that a young person's sense of self-esteem and confidence is a prerequisite for success, especially in an environment that discourages individual initiative and does not nurture young people’s ambitions and dreams. In particular, he stressed the need for young people to feel confident in their own abilities, and called for more projects that enable young people to showcase their achievements in order to encourage others. He strongly criticized the approach by some parents who underestimate their children or belittle their abilities, which destroys their confidence at a time when they need to learn to believe in themselves and their own abilities.
Mr. Rashid Tmar, accountant and professor, criticized the negative climate that dominates public debate in Tunisia and discourages individuals, and especially youth. He welcomed the successful experiences presented by the speakers as the most constructive response to life’s challenges. He outlined five steps that must be taken into consideration for anyone thinking about starting their own business.
The first is making a personal commitment to take on all the responsibility and consequences that come with any start-up. A question any person starting a business should ask themselves is, "Do I like the business I plan to launch or not?" Anyone who does not like the work he or she does will not succeed. Secondly, the importance of sound management practices and risk management processes. Thirdly, the next step is to do a market study to carefully identify all the aspects and factors needed to make the business a success. Fourth, develop an action plan that includes short-term and long-term objectives, takes into account the resources available, and identifies partners and key experts or sources of expertise that can be drawn upon. Finally, he emphasized the need for a clear plan for raising the necessary funds, to avoid having to make impromptu decisions later on that may be very damaging for the business.
A rich and varied discussion then followed in which a large number of the young people attending the event participated. They received answers from the entrepreneurs and experts, together with a promise by the Chabiba.TN team to hold similar events in a number of coastal and interior regions with other entrepreneurs. Participants agreed that there is a real need to open up new horizons for Tunisians that instill hope and motivate people to take initiative. As the saying goes, “Better light a candle than curse the darkness”.