“I’ve found my voice”, Ahlem, woman leader in Tunisia

Ahlem Ben Ahmend walks home with her son through the fields on a windy day after visiting the HealthCare Centre in the local village Azmoure, Tunisia.
Ahlem Ben Ahmend walks home with her son through the fields on a windy day after visiting the HealthCare Centre in the local village Azmoure, Tunisia.

Across the Middle East and North Africa, women are taking the lead in poor and marginalized areas. Ahlem ben Ahmed, who lives in an isolated village in Tunisia, is one of them. 

She has joined AMAL (“hope” in Arabic), a program hosted by Oxfam which supports women’s transformative leadership not only in Tunisia, but also in Morocco, in Yemen and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The program works through partner organizations to enable women from poor communities to strengthen their confidence, knowledge of their rights and their campaigning and advocacy skills. The aim is for these women to become leaders who can work with their communities to reclaim their right to political and civic participation and achieve long lasting positive change.

This is Ahlem’s story.

“I had rights that I wasn’t aware of, I had things that I wanted to achieve and I didn’t know how. We are ready to fight for our rights; we want our voices to be heard!

I am Ahlem ben Ahmed, and I am just like any mother who dreams of a better life for her two children. I live in the isolated village of Azmour, in Tunisia, which makes it very difficult for the community to receive education, health care and many other crucial services.

I felt a radical change after joining the AMAL program, hosted by Oxfam. Most women ignored their basic rights and were afraid of demanding them from authorities, but thanks to the trainings we received, we learnt how to discuss issues and problems like transportation, healthcare and education openly and figured out the best way to solve them. Since then, I became active in encouraging other women to participate in my mission. I was hopping from one household to the other to meet women and to explain their rights. These trainings highly empowered me. On top of that the mission has been successful in changing men’s mindset and in turn became supportive of women’s enrolment in the program. I feel like a new person. I wasn’t able to express myself before. Now, I’ve found my voice.”

Photo: Ellie Kealy/Oxfam

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