Our Neighborhood Our Democracy

Project Overview

In October 2015, we selected 300 young unemployed residents of the marginalized neighborhoods of the northern region of Tunis. We listened to their problems and their aspirations through a series of youth debate sessions, then we shortlisted 150 of them to participate in our 14-month project that aims to empower young people to be part of the solution and to raise their awareness of their responsibility towards their communities. During the next 12 months, they participated in several types of activities and obtained training on a variety of skills and techniques that elevated their self-esteem and improved their employability. The main milestone of this phase was the organization of a region-wide awareness campaign about local governance. The campaign was welcomed by local authorities and the residents, and reached over 20,000 citizens across the neighborhoods of the region.

The project also aimed, in its last phase, to prepare 25 of the participants to become community leaders and equip them with the necessary skillset to communicate with the local officials in their communities. The selection of these participants was purely based on their performance during the past 12 months and on their commitment to the project objectives.  The final participants were given training in field research methodologies and advocacy techniques. The participants were later divided into 5 teams to propose solutions for a particular issue in their neighborhoods and design an advocacy strategy to rally residents and local stakeholders behind their recommendations. The 5 teams had another opportunity to present their findings before a wider audience in the final project conference that was attended by senior officials and the representatives of the region in the parliament.

Based on the planned of indicators and on the positive feedback of the project stakeholders, we believe that the project had the desired impact on the participants and elevated the issues of social exclusion and political alienation they live in this type of neighborhoods. We also believe that these issues are far from resolved and that a wider proportion of the young Tunisian population could be venerable to exploitation and manipulation, and that an urgent action plan to develop their neighborhoods and improve their livelihoods is the only way to give them hope and ensure their commitment to be part of the new Tunisian democratic society. Our role as a civil society organization is paramount in succeeding such type of local development plan. Our works in this type of neighborhoods has allowed us to built a strong trust-based relationship with the residents that can guarantee their engagement and commitment to any future initiative.

The Project Challenges

The factor that played a challenging role during the implementation of the project was the tightening of the security measures following the terrorist attacks that took place in 2015 in Tunisia. The project team and the facilitators were routinely questioned by police about the topics and the objectives of the project especially when executing street activities and during transporting participants from their neighborhoods to the venues. In 2 incidents volunteers and participants were kept in custody for hours until Jasmine foundation intervened to release them.

On the positive side, there were two national factors that enhanced the effectiveness of the project. The first was generated at the government level and consisted of the creation of the ministry of the local authorities on 18th March 2016.  The second factor was the starting of the parliamentary discussions around two milestone legislations that will establish the legal framework for the local elections; which are the local authorities act and the local elections act. This sent a positive message about the commitment of the government and the parliament to implement the chapter 7 of the constitution (about establishing local governance). It also helped to reduce the resistance of the local officials and local law enforcement forces to provide assistance and resources to the project team, and to ease the security measures for our street events.  This in turn helped to motivate the project volunteers and participants to continue their field activities and opened many closed doors for them to carry on advocating for their neighborhood issues.

The Project Success Indicators

The project recruited subject matter experts who combine deep knowledge in the local governance with long experience in adult learning and youth engagement.  This helped the project team to achieve the planned objectives consisting primarily in motivating young people who were socially marginalized and uninterested in the public affairs, and transformed their views towards participating in finding solutions for the issues of their local communities. The impact of the project was also visible on the local officials who were initially resistant to allow the project to hold street activities (the initial street survey in November 2015) to become partners in the implementation of the project activities. The project succeeded in building an alliance with local authorities and in promoting to the role of the civil society as a serious and trusted partner in future local development initiatives.

The main key indicators of the success of this project are:

150 young participants from marginalized neighborhoods have changed their position (in various degrees) from totally uninterested in public affairs to becoming local champions and civil society activists. Some of them is now are considered leaders in their communities and included in the local decision making process.

The commitment of over 90% of participants to complete all the project activities throughout the project duration including the final project conference which registered a high attendance.

The active participation of the beneficiaries in engaging their friends and family members during the street campaign which reached with over 20000 residents.

The project had also a positive impact on the local authorities in la Marsa and Sokra by creating competition and dynamism between localities in tackling issues brought to their attentions through their interaction with the project participants.

Other Sustainable Results

The project is still making positive impact on the region even after we ended the scheduled activities. The project volunteers (Facilitators) are now part of the decision making in both municipalities of Soukra and Marsa in the matters related to environment and youth engagement. For example:

  • Jasmine Foundation was called by the municipality of Marsa to provide expertise in holding local awareness campaigns and organizing other social events as a reaction to our successful awareness campaign in the region.
  • The Tunisian parliament invited one of our volunteers (Facilitator Oussama Rezgui ) from Marsa to represent his neighborhood in the regional development committee.
  • We are seeing a new vibrant atmosphere driven by competition between the youth residents in both municipalities, some of them were trained by our project, in organizing youth engagement events.
  • Both municipalities have developed a strategic interest in coordinating their decision making with civil society organizations especially in issues related to environment and youth inclusion.
  • The of Municipality of Marsa has granted four of our project volunteers full membership in its Youth Committee to help in the implementation of new cultural events to engage residents and youth in the development of their communities.
  • The adoption of the municipality of Sokra of a new social action suggested by one of our volunteers (facilitator Ramzy Aloui) with full funding and implementation support.

Generally, the provided training will enable the participants to use the skills and techniques to enhance their chances in getting the employment they desire and improved their self-esteem in pursuing new ways in planning their careers. It also opened the door for them to get involved in the civil society which is now presenting a new career avenue for the Tunisian youth.

Conclusion

Based on the planned of indicators and on the positive feedback of the project stakeholders, we believe that the project had the desired impact on the participants and elevated the issues of social exclusion and political alienation they live in this type of neighborhoods. We also believe that these issues are far from resolved and that a wider proportion of the young Tunisian population could be venerable to exploitation and manipulation, and that an urgent action plan to develop their neighborhoods and improve their livelihoods is the only way to give them hope and ensure their commitment to be part of the new Tunisian democratic society. Our role as a civil society organization is paramount in succeeding such type of local development plan. Our works in this type of neighborhoods has allowed us to built a strong trust-based relationship with the residents that can guarantee their engagement and commitment to any future initiative.

 

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