Asma Ben Aîcha, a past Professional Fellows Program participant from Tunisia shares an update on her Legacy follow-on project to provide training on the fundamental principles of democracy and participation in decision making. Read more about her project here

The Academy is a five-day summer school organized by Sawty Sousse in partnership with Legacy International, Club Café Culturel at Complexe des Jeunes Sahloul and under the supervision of State Department. This project gathered young Tunisians from the rural areas of the governorate of Sousse to take part in an all-inclusive training on the fundamental principles of democracy and participation in decision making. Through this academy, the participants had acquired new skills that would help them become future leaders and decision-makers in their local communities. Furthermore, it was an opportunity for them to get involved in civic and political life and become active. The project encompassed workshops on the functioning of civil society, project management, budgeting, local governance, advocacy, accountability and internet governance, dialogue and debate sessions in addition to a panel discussion on the Participation of Youth in Public Life and Decision Making. The panels featured several renowned panelist; the then-secretary of state of youth affairs, regional delegate of youth affairs, local governor and two representatives from civil society on women empowerment and elections/decentralization fields and was attended by guests from the US Embassy Tunis and local government officials.

Some beneficiaries shared their experiences during The Academy:

“The Academy was my first experience in civic and political life. It was a very interesting and useful one. At first, I thought I’d never fit in the group of participants or get along with them or even be able to endure the pressure of such an intensive program. Later on, I met new people and I was impressed by their enthusiasm and determination to take the lead and their creative ideas, and that had a great influence on me. I wanted to raise my voice and speak up, which is unusual for me, and try to learn from them as much as I could. The trainers also were knowledgeable, they had such a positive and energetic attitude that helped us engage in discussions and debates and made us interact effectively. In fact, the topics were interesting and accurate. We learned new facts and information, heard logical points of view and reasoning, we learned how to accept a controversial idea and then we had the chance to put our learning to work, which helped us acquire new knowledge and skills.” Khouloud Kechiche

“To start with, this very new professional experience allowed me to have confidence in myself thanks to a follow-up throughout the sessions, whether by content or the know-how (workshops). We had a rich and comprehensive training with its trainers who were committed to transmit their knowledge and experiences, solid knowledge in the societal profession. It was a valuable experience on the pro side but also on the human level as there was a pedagogical team which was constantly listening and kept on working to make of our skills lively assets to succeed in this training. At the beginning of the training, it was just about impatience and curiosity, I was ready and I was looking forward to the challenge. I saw the progress, the results were there, and we were supported and encouraged by the organizers. The academy allowed me to confirm my choice to move into civil society and develop the skills needed to make a career in this field. And finally, this training brought me a new job! Today I see my professional future in the framework of civil society clearer. Thank you to the whole team for everything they have brought me during these 5 days” Ines Bouchahoua

My experience in the “Academy: Towards Civic and Political Engagement” was similar to the democratic transition in Tunisia; it was indeed a turning point in my life. I did not know my strengths but through the sessions provided during the project I discovered that I have talents that I can improve in the future. I gained confidence in myself, which made me have an optimistic look at myself. I can become a leader girl who contributes to decision-making in public life and who participates in improving the country’s conditions for a better future. Fedia Saaidi

“This experience was my first step towards Civil Society as it gave me the opportunity to know more about its structure and how to be an active citizen who works for the welfare of her/his country. Their trainings were inspiring as they encouraged me to know more about Civil Society and Political Engagement and how to be an active member in an association. The content of the trainings was beneficial especially for beginners who want to participate in making their country a better place. Finally, I came to believe first in myself and in the communities around me. If we want positive change in our country, we can reach it. We just need to be motivated and have faith in ourselves and in the power of change.” Imen Ben Hassen

“It’s true! Summer school “The Academy” is over. However, its effects still exist. What we have learned during the five days we spent together will pave the way for us to establish a bright future for us and our society. Providing young people with guidance, absolute trust and the information they need to make the change they want to see in their societies is a constructive way to free them from superficial thoughts they used to have such as they’re useless or unheard. The Academy was a great opportunity to meet trainers who combine leadership, enthusiasm and vision. We learned from their experiences and listened to their stories. During the panel discussion, I kept thinking that communication is the key to solve all problems. Through communication we can understand each other, but the most important thing is that we understand ourselves and start listening to our hearts. No one can keep us away from what we want; we should start using our will in order to go after our goals. The workshops we participated in are only a step towards our goals. They have had a great impact on us and hopefully they will have the same in reality.” Nouha Laadhari

“When I participated in The Academy, I never thought it would really change anything about me. I only did it because I thought it was a good opportunity to relax and have fun since summer is almost over. But it did. And now, not only I know so much about advocacy, accountability, local governance, budgeting… and so many other terms I’ve never heard of before, but also I got to meet a lot of motivated people who gave me the example of the person I would want to be a few years from now. I got to talk, ask questions and discuss so many of the youth problems in Tunisia with leaders in civil society, government officials, and representatives from the US Embassy, which was really cool! I was also so lucky to make a lot of good friendships. We would talk about anything and everything all day long and never get bored. The harmony between participants and the organizing committee was so impressive, although sometimes they had to be kind of severe to make sure everything was on point. Make a long story short, The Academy is definitely “a life changing experience”! Nesrine Aouani

The beneficiaries of the project are now applying what they had learned during The Academy through the implementation of follow-up activities and projects and participation in events organized by other NGOs. Indeed, their high commitment and enthusiasm testify to the success of such a project as it left a positive impact on them and made a transformative change.