Almost two years after riots, fueled by economic frustration and unemployment, led to the toppling of the Tunisian government and started the Arab Spring, unemployment remains a challenge and a catalyst for unrest. Since the revolution, unemployment has risen to 18% from 13%. Women’s Enterprise for Sustainability (WES), IIE's Center for Women’s Leadership Initiatives’ newest program, focuses on building the entrepreneurialism and sustainability of local civil society organizations in Tunisia and training a network of women entrepreneurs with leadership and practical skills to actively contribute to shaping the future of their country. WES trainers such as Fathia Jouabria are critical to making this happen.
Borj Louzir is one of the poorer neighborhoods in Tunisia’s capital city, Tunis. For four years, Fathia Jouabria managed a microcredit program in Borj Louzir run by the Tunisian Association for Management and Social Stability (TAMSS). She successfully helped low-income women secure microloans to start small businesses and support their families.
IIE selected TAMSS as a partner in the WES program, along with seven other civil society organizations committed to improving opportunities for women. Through WES, partner organizations learn to operate training centers as social enterprises using a cost-recovery business model. Each partner identified staff to be trained as WES trainers, and prepared them to deliver workshops and coach women in leadership, entrepreneurship and social media. By charging nominal fees for training, the partner organizations will be able increase their own sustainability and reach, while supporting women entrepreneurs in their communities to launch and expand businesses.
TAMSS founding president and WES Country Director, Chéma Gargouri, recognized Fathia’s commitment to women and her ability to inspire others and lead in her community. Chéma knew that given the opportunity, Fathia could be an excellent trainer, but Fathia was resistant and worried that she wouldn’t succeed. With Chéma’s encouragement, Fathia attended the five-day WES Training of Trainers (TOT) on Entrepreneurship in October. At the TOT, her first impression was that training women entrepreneurs would be too hard. “I can’t do it!” she said.
By the end of the TOT, Fathia decided to accept the challenge along with a new network of WES trainers. Since October, she has fully embraced her new role. She translated all the materials into the local Arabic dialect and conducted an 11-day entrepreneurship training with ten women interested in launching their own businesses. Using the personal skills she honed by working with women in Borj Louzir, she successfully developed strong bonds with the training participants and created an environment that allowed women to share and build upon their innovative ideas.
For Fathia, the experience has already been transformative. She has new confidence in herself and her skills. TAMSS and WES are thrilled to have a new trainer with the passion and skills to support emerging and established women entrepreneurs as they create and expand new ventures and become leaders in their communities.
When asked to express her thoughts about becoming a WES trainer, Fathia shared with enthusiasm, “I really can’t wait to participate in the Leadership TOT and become a better trainer who is self-confident and convincing.”