‘Aim higher! A Commitment to Myself and Our World’

Khouloud Ben Mansour Baghouri is a Tunisian activist. She has studied Leadership and Conflict Resolution at California State University as part of a US State Department scholarship. Khouloud is passionate about women’s and children’s rights in Tunisia and around the world. She has received numerous awards for her hard work that has led her to take up various positions either on the Executive Board or as a focal point for international NGOs.

Q: Talk to us about your current project? What is it that you aim to achieve?

The ongoing position I am holding within the African Union has motivated me to pursue a career in Diplomacy and International Relations. I am currently learning and evolving through this mandate and working closely with experts and attending High-Level meetings has been a great addition to my learning path. I am also currently on the plan of strengthening my academic expertise by enrolling myself in a Master's program in IR or a related field.

I believe that learning has no limit and that this is essential to become an expert in the field I chose to work at. 

Q: Tell us about the team of people that you work with. Who are they and how has collaboration changed during COVID-19 times?

I am currently working with the technical supervision of the Y4P Africa Program under the overall direction of the Political Affairs, Peace and Security Unit of the African Union. Alongside me, there are 4 other ambitious ambassadors for peace representing the other 4 regions of the continent (West, Central, East and South). I have been appointed in November 2021 and I am lucky to be able to participate in the majority of the activities in person where I get to connect and engage with my peers and colleagues. 

Before I join the AU team, I was working full-time at an INGO and the COVID-19 pandemic has been very hard on everyone with the physical, mental and financial challenges it has presented. Fortunately, being surrounded with a positive working environment and having the advantage of working from home which gives me a sense of comfort has helped me a lot, I have encountered some challenges in meeting my loved ones and being far from close people, but I believe that it has taught me a lot of good things despite all the difficult times.  

Q: What is your wider vision? If you were to hit your most desired goal, what would that be?

My vision is still within academia. I am still exploring opportunities and finding where my potential and my skills are at their best. This is why I am currently discovering my capacities and hoping to reach a high-level position in the spaces I am currently serving. Aside from my professional vision, I hope I can be able to support other girls and young women to build their careers and train them to become pioneers in their own fields.

Q: Do you work with younger generations of people? If so, what are currently the main concerns both about themselves, but also about the world?

I enjoy working in youth groups either in international conferences, training programs, or at a national level in my country. In my capacity as Youth Ambassador for North Africa, I am also engaging youth in my region, that is from my network or beyond.

Youth in my region and beyond are confronting several challenges, that is from war to global pandemics, armed conflicts, smuggling, climate change and economic instability, all of these challenges tend to make the space more violent and less peaceful which leads to building a generation that is unsure about their needs and dreams. 

I want as much youth as possible to be involved in positive spaces and to eliminate hate speech, violent extremism and all forms of discrimination.  

Q: How has mentoring benefited you? Share with us the journey that you took together with your mentor David Pittfield and how it helped you materialize your dreams?

Mentoring has been an essential thing I needed at that time, I was very motivated to work on so many projects at the same time and be involved in different thematics. However, I needed to reflect on my career choices and my future plans and having a mentor with the expertise and great

knowledge like David's has really been a positive point. I have been grateful to stay in touch with David and always follow his advice and tips, his guidance has helped me a lot to shape the profile I wanted for myself. I believe it’s important for each one of us to have a mentor they look up to guide them through their professional or academic choices. 

Q: Do you think that the international crisis we have been going through as a global community, the pandemic and now the war in Ukraine, do they create more opportunities for women’s leadership to shine?

Unfortunately, the pandemic has increased the number of victims of GBV and domestic violence, mental health challenges and financial shortages made women become vulnerable and decreased their chances to shine, for categories these challenges make women afraid to speak up and pull themselves back to stay quiet and refuse to demand their rights based on fear and other reasons. 

However, the pandemic has created other alternatives to support the empowerment of women and to engage them in other projects mostly on a virtual basis. The consequences of these challenges are still being rectified until today and women's opportunities are getting more tight, this is why we call for more involvement to support women being upfront and to encourage stakeholders to reconsider policies and frameworks to make them gender responsive and more resilient towards women's rights and their wellbeing.  

Q: The UN sustainable development goals: are you optimistic that the targets for 2030 will be met? Do you think that women can play a role towards raising awareness around the SDGs? And how?

The global challenges that the world has been facing in the late years have changed our firm belief in making the Agenda 2030 attainable. There is so much work to be done, and that cannot be achieved without the involvement of key stakeholders that is youth especially young girls and women.

Women must be granted opportunities to be involved in decision making, to have their basic rights reserved (Education, Health, Nutrition, Access to energy and natural resources) to enhance their integration and to support their wellbeing. 

We cannot think of development without having the word women in it. When we think of development we have to incorporate gender equality into it. The Gender Gap still exists despite the major efforts some countries have made in putting women upfront and supporting Gender Equality as an implementation of the SDG5.

Women play a very important role in social, economic and political sustainability and their involvement plays a positive role towards raising awareness on SDGs.

Q. Do you have a message you wish to communicate?

My message to youth is to “always aim higher, it’s never too late, when you have an idea, a project or a dream you wish to attain, please go for it! Sometimes, you will have moments of doubts and you may also face so many challenges, but always remember that it’s all worth it. Remember, you’re making the world a better place for yourself and others, make yourself proud!”