Meet MEPI’s Best and Brightest Alumni
MEPI Alum Awarded Third Place in the Regional P2P Challenging Extremism Competition
When Badis Laabidi returned home after participating in MEPI Student Leaders program of 2016, he joined the P2P ( Peer to Peer) Challenging Extremism program sponsored by Ed Venture. As part of the program, Badis launched “Speak Yehdik” with three of his Tunisian schoolmates. “Speak Yehdik” is a social media campaign that uses facts to educate youth about growing local extremism and empowers them to claim their rights and change their reality. The team’s research was based on statistics that show 1) Tunisia is among the top countries exporting jihadists to conflict zones such as Syria, Iraq and Libya; and 2) a high percentage of these jihadists are university students and especially Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students.
Two months after launching the campaign, Badis and his team organized their first “Speak Yehdik” nonviolence training session at Tunis Business School. Badis got the idea of this event from training he received during his participation in MEPI’s Student Leaders program. Soon after the training session was held, “Speak Yehdik” was awarded third place in the regional P2P Challenging Extremism competition held in Accra, Ghana.
“It is incredible how effective communication can build bridges between different people. Clearly, MEPI is based on that concept. This is one of the main reasons I cofounded this campaign,” says Badis.
Badis and his team are now looking for more opportunities to scale up the “Speak Yehdik” campaign in Tunisia.
El Mahdi Lafram
El Mahdi Lafram’s Project Showcased at COP22 and Recognized by Stanford University
After El Mahdi participated in MEPI Student Leaders program of 2015, he joined the Environmental Youth Program (EYA) project campaigning for conservation and climate change action through social media, video production, and community events, along with a group of six Moroccan young activists mentored by local NGO Dar Si Hmad. El Mahdi started as a team member in May 2016 before taking the lead on the initiative. The EYA project was showcased at the UN Climate Change conference in Marrakesh and El Mahdi’s team members were among Dar Si Hmad booth facilitators at the conference, presenting its awarding-winning fog-harvesting project to hundreds of Moroccan and foreign visitors – fog-harvesting is an innovative technology based on the fact that water can be collected from fogs under favorable climatic conditions.
In just six months, El Mahdi and his team organized four local environmental awareness events in Agadir engaging more than 100 local young people. He also helped build an online audience of thousands of followers on social media platforms, where he published original multimedia, multilingual content, in addition to participating in various environmental events across Morocco.
Through his environmental activism work, El Mahdi took part in an executive education program at the American University in Cairo (AUC) School of Global Affairs & Public Policy with a full scholarship and will be speaking at the American Middle Eastern Network for Dialogue at Stanford university (AMENDS) prestigious conference that will take place at the University of Oxford in June 2017.
“MEPI provided me with the tools and resources to make my dreams come to life. It made me biased towards action and making a change” says El Mahdi Lafram.
Ikram Ben Said
Ikram Ben Said nominated by UN Secretary General as member of “Advisory Group for Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security”.
Ikram has been officially appointed by the Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon as a member of the Advisory Group of Experts for the Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security, mandated by the Security Council in its resolution 2250. The Advisory Group is unique in its significant representation of young people and women; nine members are young practitioners and twelve are women.
Advisory Group members have worked on a wide range of issues, including youth empowerment, enhance political participation of women and youth, gender equality and peace, violence prevention and youth development.
The findings and recommendations of the study will be presented to the Security Council in December 2017, on the second anniversary of the adoption of resolution 2250.
Congratulations to Khaled Koubaa on joining the ICANN Board of Directors
Khaled Koubaa, a Leaders for Democracy Fellowship Program Alumnus of 2007, joined the Board of Directors of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). ICANN is a non-profit organization that is in charge of maintaining and coordinating the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and the Domain Name System (DNS). Khaled is the Founder and President of the Arab World Internet Institute. Previously, he worked as Head of Government Relations and Public Policy MENA at Google. Khaled has technical, management, and policy experience in IT with more than 15 years international experience:
Previously, Khaled worked as an independent consultants for the non-profit and government sectors in the Middle East Africa region, promoting best practices in the use of information technology and providing strategic advice regarding how to choose and use internet and new media technologies.
Khaled founded the Internet Society chapter in Tunisia in 2006 and served as its President. He has also served on the Board of Trustees of the Internet Society and regularly attends Internet-related events (ICANN, IETF, IGF, etc.). He was elected to represent the African region in the ICANN Nomination Committee, and also served on the Board of Directors of AfriNIC, representing the North African region. The Internet strikes a personal chord with Khaled: he met his wife online, and subsequently saw his daughter for the first time online.
Meet Maha, 34 years old, Bachelor in Marketing, Governorate of Tunis, Tunisia
Is it possible to leave a stable and high paying job to become an entrepreneur when you are a wife and a mother?
It definitely was for our alumna Maha Meghayth. “People think that for an employed person to consider entrepreneurship she must be frustrated with her job and entrepreneurship is the only way out. Contrary to those assumptions, I loved my previous job; I was working for an international company, in a field I chose, and was fairly paid compared to the rest of my peers.” she said, “ but I always felt that I was destined to greater things. I dream of changing the way people lived.”
Soon after, she started writing the draft of her business plan: to play the role of intermediate between customers and the service provider. Ejrily (“come to my rescue” in Arabic) was born and would have remained on paper if our alumna had not come across the Souk At-Tanmia Program: a national project reuniting more than 20 partners, including Education for Employment (funded by the Middle East Partnership Initiative).
“The concern of funding was of moderate importance to me. What was more important to my mind is how to acquire the skills necessary in order to build a successful business venture that could flourish and be sustainable.” As part of the program, she received the Build your Business training program provided by Education for Employment Tunisia Foundation. “What I enjoyed best during the training is the methodology. The knowledge we gained during the Build your Business program was really tailored to each participant’s need and the specific requirement of the project,” she said.
“I really believe the training I received was one of the pillars of the success of my project. For instance, I would have not made it if I have not received the proper training in finance and marketing.”
Maha received 28,000 Tunisian Dinars as a grant and succeeded in securing 24,000 Tunisian Dinars through a local bank. Currently she has hired an assistant and plans to expend her team by adding three more people in the next two years. She dreams of going international.
“I am willing to pursue my dream no matter the setbacks I might face in the future, because I want to be a role a model not only for my two year old daughter but also for other girls who are looking into entrepreneurship.”
Karem Saad, a MEPI Leaders for Democracy Fellowship Program Alumnus of 2012, participated in a regional conference program organized to strengthen economic advocacy in both Egypt and the Arab region, focusing on access to information, creating a participatory approach, and public policy reform.
Meet Omar Weslati, Portfolio Manager – Microcred, Beja, Tunisia
Omar, from Beja Tunisia, graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in International Commerce in 2011 and immediately started looking for job opportunities. He applied for several job positions, with rejection after rejection, he decided to pursue his postgraduate studies.
Upon the completion of his Master degree in International Commerce in 2013, the searching journey started all over again. This time, he was determined to work, no matter where or what. At first, he worked at an agro-food company, then in a storage company, later he worked as a cashier and then a sales controller. When he was asked about the reason behind trying different jobs, he said: “I don’t really know the reason; it is just that I couldn’t fit in in any of these jobs”. Eventually, Omar quit his last job and got back to his hometown, Testour to figure out his next steps.
After a while, he entered the professional world again accepting a job with Microcred as a Portfolio Manager facilitated by EFE. He was excited, but he had some doubts about his ability to remain in the same job. Before he started his job he participated in EFE’s Job Training and Placement Program.
“When I was informed about the training, I was excited, but I never expected it to be that efficient. It helped me enhance my skills, but most importantly, it made me realize why I kept switching jobs, in the last two years, I kept trying different jobs thinking that this way, I will discover myself. Actually, I didn’t; it made me feel even more miserable. However, thanks to EFE’s training, I got to finally set my goals and identify my weaknesses.” For Omar the training helped him overcome some of the difficulties that he faced before. “Through role games and simulations, I got to challenge myself and I proved that I am a good team player”. … He even changed on a personal level “Once I finished the training program, I started to notice how different I became. Now, I plan for my actions and I am more focused than ever”.
Meet Suzanne, 29 years old, Bachelor in Transportation Management, Governorate of Nabeul, Tunisia
Born in 1985, our alumna pursued a Bachelor Degree in transportation management hoping to work in the new airport that was being built in the region.
After graduating from university and spending two years actively looking for a job in her field, she decided to lower her standards and she finally settled for a sales position in a local shop. “I was miserable. Work felt very meaningless.” she said. This is why, one year later, she quit her job after meeting her husband and getting married. Eighteen months later, she had a son.
Soon after, she started questioning her decision to leave her job. “I love my son dearly”, she said,” but I felt trapped and frustrated being home full-time.
At the same time, I felt guilty about wanting to go back to my old life; about leaving my kid in kindergarten.” “Interacting with the outside world, with people who were not my family or friends, felt like a distant memory. How am I going to fit in a work place? I had the impression that my knowledge and skills were out of date. I was truly intimidated.” At the same time, “I was excited by the idea of going back to work, couldn’t wait to re-join adult conversations, and have structure and diversity to my day. More importantly, I was longing to prove myself. I was sure that it was the right decision.”
After voicing her intention, she received mixed reactions from her entourage. But it made her more determined to do what she believed was right for her and her family.
Convinced that she could not return to her old job, she started applying for several jobs and looking for training to overcome the years she spent unemployed. That’s how she joined the Job Training and Placement program provided by Education for Employment Tunisia. “I was thrilled when they told me that we will be having a soft skills oriented training.” She said. “It was exactly what I needed to feel fully prepared to come back to the work place.”