This article was written right after a workshop I attended with the Council of Young Leaders of Tunis, with Search for Common Ground about Communication skills and Advocacy. I’ve never been as fascinated by the amount of motivation that I saw in these young people as I did during the days of this workshop; young people who are willing to be an efficient part of our community. This is what inspired me to write this article.
Let’s start from the beginning; I come from a small city. In this city, the only obsession that people of my age have is going to cafés. Going to a café is basically either about gossiping, and yes men do gossip A LOT, or about spending all day playing cards.
Let’s walk in Tunisia, in its popular streets and neighborhoods, let’s talk to people with moderate backgrounds and average thinking skills, and ask them what brought the situation of Tunisian youth to how it currently is. Well, it doesn’t take too much asking around to conclude that it is the youth’s fault. Young people do not take advantage of new technologies and use them in “useful” ways, Youth are irresponsible, Youth are immature etc… But is it really always the Youth’s fault? In fact getting such responses gives you a glance of how Tunisians think or in general how people, from this part of the world that we call MENA, think. It is always not our fault, but the “other’s”.
Let’s have a quick flashback of how an Average Tunisian young person has lived in the last 3 decades and then judge:
Since Ben Ali’s “blessed transition” in 1987, the Tunisian community had high hopes regarding the future of Tunisia. Their new leader Ben Ali was relatively smart to pretend to follow a new policy of investment in Tunisian youth, towards creating better leaders. Later, in 1999, Ben Ali launched what he called the Youth of 21st century TV channel or what became known as “Channel 21”. He ended up in 2009 with “Youth are the solution, not the problem”, the slogan of The National Year of Youth. However, one year later, Youth showed him what they could really do.
Right after the revolution, the whole world was fascinated with what the people of this small area of the world could do. Tunisian Youth gave the world a lesson, the Tunisian Youth as it was called before the ‘Youth of Cafés’ was able to overthrow a whole repressive regime. People won the battle against the forces of regression in the next elections, preventing the country from moving back to the old regime. However, youth became just a new trend to start new political campaigns. For some people, the revolution was an illusion. It was just an update for Ben Ali’s Methods and skills but with a new picture and décor. The participation of youth in decision-making is still modest, the youth presence in political positions is pretty much non-existent.
The lack of youth representation and leadership in community organizations continues to play a fundamental role in underestimating the capacity that young individuals have in order to hold legitimate positions of leadership in society. Youth are still considered a weak, irresponsible and unreliable source of authority that is not capable of making proper decisions or holding recognized positions in our society.
To sum up, no matter what you do, you are irrelevant if you still haven’t grown grey hair and started walking with a cane! You are just an irresponsible creature who must accept and bend the knee. But for how long? When will we react? When will we learn that this country needs a brand new generation of leaders? We may make mistakes, we may fall, but we will rise again. We shall learn our lessons, and lead this community towards a better future, a future we choose.