by Basma Azizi

AIC’s new  The Leader  competition for a social entrepreneurship  is already bearing fruit, showing how Tunisia’s youth can drive positive change.  Our judges selected sixteen projects from almost 14 Tunis governorates to enter the contest and lead social ventures in their respective communities.

The first project Our Elders are a Blessing, began in the country’s North West, in the Jendouba governorate. This initiative was launched by Abir Rouis, a 25-year-old aeronautic engineer, to assist elderly citizens isolated in nursing homes in Jendouba.

Rouis seeks to raise awareness among young Tunisians about poor conditions in elderly care centers, where senior citizens are often ignored, lack good facilities, and have little interaction with young people. Elderly people living there require health care and proper nutrition.  Both are in short supply two years after the Jasmine Revolution.

The initiative Rouis has just launched is a continuation of her earlier project within  the Tune-in-Tunisia program. Rouis’ initial success had exceeded expectations. A small campaign she had launched last year to raise youth awareness against the importance of our elders turned into a large project and regional movement.  The UTICA local Office (Tunisian Union for Industry, Trade and handicrafts), along with business leaders, and other citizens, offered assistance in building a new elderly care center – and help improve the existing center with furniture and basic necessities until the new center is built. Rouis hopes her project this year will continue building on her earlier success and further improve the lives of Tunisia’s elderly.

Abir Rouis’s project is a simple example of many other successful AIC initiatives that helped increase civic involvement among citizens.

Tunisia’s youth have sparked the uprising in December 2010 and they are now the hope for a better future for Tunis. These young leaders will help make a successful democratic transition through their social ventures. It is crucial to empower them.

 Basma Azizi is AIC Tunisia Program Director