Q: Tell us a few things about your country, and also your life's story!
A: I live in Tunisia. A lovely beautiful country crowning North Africa. My country produced some of the most brilliant men in history, including and not limited to the great leader and warrior General Hanibal Barca, or Abd Erahmen Ibnou Khaldoun the founder of modern sociology.
For the last twenty years, my country has suffered from graduate youth unemployment which caused a continuous brain drain. If you Google Tunisian graduate you’ll find many of those working for Fortune 500 companies around the world and teaching in the greatest universities including Ivy League institutions and even leading projects for NASA. Tunisians are among the most intelligent hard-working ambitious people that exist, and this ambition has encouraged everyone to migrate and seek opportunities in the developed world.
When it comes to me, I hold a bachelor degree in computer science. Before graduating, I had the chance to study abroad. One year in Russia and one year in the United States of America after being awarded a full ride scholarship. When I was awarded a full ride scholarship to the United States, my life has changed, and I have been trying ever since coming back from the US to give back to my community, especially to brilliant students from less fortunate backgrounds, through Onism Consulting. My social startup helps students get full scholarships to study abroad. I provide training, coaching and mentoring services, basically for free, to help the brilliant minds of my country get quality education, follow their dreams, and defy financial obstacles. My experience covers different fields including education, social entrepreneurship, nonprofit work and research.
Q: What is your view of the world as it is today? And how do you define the concept of a better world?
A: With technological advances and the rise of new global opportunities, the future seems to be optimistic. Nevertheless, we should all work on contributing to the greater good, even by the smallest deeds. A better world can only be achieved with education. Investing in education is never enough. When it comes to my country, I believe we’ll achieve a better world when each and every educational institution in Tunisia makes a partnership with a foreign university, giving the chance to Tunisian students of exchange studies and dual degrees.
Q: What are some of the key challenges in your society?
A: Since 2011, according to the ministry of education, every year about 100 thousand students drop out of school. Somehow I believe that education is the biggest challenge in my country. Due to the high unemployment rate, stagnating wages in front of a continuously rising inflation and cost of living, the youth can’t believe in the future.
With countless distractions, Tunisian youth that don’t stick to education, will face countless challenges in twenty years from now. Some initiatives have been taken to help the youth get back on track and achieve their potential, but unfortunately, it is only up to us to help ourselves. Tunisian youth are smart and hard-working, even if the conditions are discouraging. Somehow, I believe that it is our job, each and every one of us, it is our job to sacrifice, it is a necessity to focus on improving one’s life bit by bit, while pursuing greater goals. Tunisian youth is present in honourable positions in all over the world if conditions in Tunisia are improved, then we’ll see a global scientific revolution led by Tunisian youth.
Q: As a young individual what are a few of the hurdles that you had to overcome up until today?
A: I believe that there no single person in this world, that didn’t have outstanding difficulties somehow I don’t see any point of sharing mine, as the great leaders of this planet have persisted years and years against countless obstacles. In Tunisia, we believe that difficulties, obstacles, and poverty create real strong men. If I can add something, I will say that also failure creates strong men, but we only need to keep fighting as life is a big long fight spread out.
Q: Why is the role of a mentor important for you?
A: Would you walk 100 kilometres or would you take the plane?
Exactly, having a mentor is pretty much like taking a plane towards establishing your personal development and achieving your goals.
Q: Do you have a lesson that life has taught you and you would like to share?
A: - When you are young, primary, middle or high school, you should read about psychology, investing, stock market, or personal development books. It will help you on many levels and will put you ahead.
- You will face countless obstacles, you shall fight until you overcome them all, and always know that each one you see in the street, the bus, or the subway, is probably thinking about a problem, so you shall always fight and know that you will most likely win. If you don’t, then you will next time!
- I have met great men and women all of which share one thing in common, they read a lot and they all advise to not drink alcohol nor take other mind altering substances as it is a waste of time, money, and neurons.
Q: Name a project, a foundation or a person in your country that you think is doing great work in helping improve other people's lives!
A: The US Department of State has always been a great supporter of Tunisian youth through many scholarship programs offered to high school, undergraduate and graduate student, and professionals. The European Union has also encouraged many students through full ride Erasmus scholarship and other programs.
Al Bawsala and IWatch have done great work related to accountability and transparency.
Q: What are some of the challenges that women in your country face and what efforts are made towards gender equality?
A: Tunisian girls are among the smartest and most hardworking in the world. It is loud and clear through their achievements in universities around the world. I think the biggest challenges include a poor education system and foundation that doesn’t encourage enough. Despite all the problems we face in Tunisia, our girls are excellent in every field, they are managers, engineers, doctors and professors which is great but if we give an equal chance for everyone to study abroad, by supporting people from under-privileged regions, then we will see the next Einstein coming from rural Tunisia.
Q: Athena40 is the first ever global selection of the top 40 women forward thinkers, commentators, activists, authors, academics, entrepreneurs, executives, innovators. Can you think of a truly innovative and forward-thinking woman from your country that you wish to nominate for the Athena40 global list?
A: Oumayma El Wafi holds a masters degree in Mathematics, and has made a scientific article towards her PhD in Mathematics. She currently teaches math to middle school students. What makes her work special is that she understands that Tunisian girls should be encouraged to be interested in Math. Thus, she puts extra work focusing on empowering girls by making them more interested in Math, using a variety of techniques.
Q: Share with us a phrase, a poem or a story that you love or you find interesting!
A: Everything seems impossible until achieved.
Q: Tell us one thing that you have learned from your mentor.
I learnt to express my thoughts and ambitions, even when people might judge them as impossible to achieve.