With the ouster of longtime president Zine El Abidin Ben Ali in January 2011, a new chapter in Tunisian history began. Tunisians now had a chance to shape their own destiny after being subject to decades of oppression under authoritarian leadership. Unfortunately, after existing in a society that stifled their voice for so long, many were not equipped to exercise their newly won freedoms. This is where The American Islamic Congress’ (AIC) Tune in Tunisia comes in.

Tune in Tunisia is a program sponsored by AIC that seeks to empower young Tunisian leaders and Entrepreneurs. Now in its third iteration, the program selects candidates, ages 18-35, who pitch ideas designed to promote growth, prosperity, and the well being of the Tunisian people. The field of candidates is narrowed down, through several rounds, until a winner is selected and given a grant to further develop their project. Throughout the process, all candidates are given valuable training and experience that will prove vital to their future work.

Currently Tune in Tunisia’s The Leader competition has selected two finalists, Abir Rouis, and Sonia Mhamdi. Mhamdi, an engineer in applied management of production, has spent years working in sustainable development in Gafsa. Her project, Al Waha El Khadhra focuses on educating farmers about the importance of implementing drip irrigation systems in order to conserve water. Currently desertification of farmland is forcing many youth to migrate to larger cities in search of work, increasing the strain on these cities and draining the labor forces in smaller farming communities. Her program includes plans to meet with local farmers and collect information on irrigation systems currently in place. Following this, farmers will meet with officials from the ministry of agriculture, NGOs operating in the area, and agriculture experts to devise a plan to implement more sustainable drip irrigation systems, thus mitigating the effects of desertification and ending the youth flight from farming areas.

Abir Rouis, an aeronautics student in Jendouba, is working to improve living conditions for the elderly, a group that has fallen by the wayside since the revolution. The project, Mazelet El Barka, includes a student march from the University in Jendouba to a home for the elderly. There, students will survey elderly residents; assessing their needs and collecting information in order to cooperatively devise solutions to the highlighted problems. Additionally, Rouis has showcased goods made by the elderly at the wood festival of Ain Draham. With such success in Jendouba, Abir Rouis hopes to make Mazelet El Barka a national initiative.

These two projects are an indication that the youth of Tunisia has many groundbreaking ideas to help empower their fellow citizens. With the training and tools provided by the Tune in Tunisia project, it is hard to imagine that these two inspiring projects will not see continuing success. The competition is in its final round. Winner selection is based on voting and a panel of judges. Voting closes April 12th. Lend your support to your favorite project today!

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