Aya Chebbi is a young Tunisian blogger, women advocate and peace activist. She received her degree in International Relations from the Higher Institute of Human Sciences of Tunis. Aya is the African Youth Coordinator at World Peace Initiative, an international organization that promotes peace around the world. Awarded the Fulbright Scholarship, she is a current Fulbright Scholar at Georgia Southern University. She is also a member of the CIVICUS Youth Advisory Group.
My blog Proudly Tunisian
What does your experience tell you about being a woman activist/leader in civil society?
I am Tunisian African Muslim Arab woman. Holding this complex identity, as a woman, I think we have been treated unfairly for decades judged by our physical weaknesses which limited our roles as housewives and mothers. However, today women are on the frontline because we’re not submissive to manhood’s patriarchy anymore. As Taher Hadded, a Tunisian scholar and politician, said: “women are half of humanity”.
Being involved in community service for five years now, I’ve been always amazed by the number of women who represent over 80% of the civil society organizations I worked with. I’ve been raised in a family and community that empower and appreciate women. Unlike many Arab countries, I didn’t find challenges living by myself for almost five years in Tunis the capital while my family lives in the south. Because of my civil society work, I used to travel a lot to different cities in Tunisia participating in workshops or organizing events. I believe during these travels, my contributions and feedback have always been taken as serious as any man in the room. It is not actually about waiting for men to recognize our abilities and potential but about us claiming our place in society and getting our voices to be heard. I am proud of the Tunisian woman because she continues to claim her space.
What is your leadership journey?
I’ve started as a mentor in summer camps with the National Organization for Tunisian Children .I consider my first leadership position as the hardest because I my responsibility teams were children who are not easy to mentor and communicate with. After one year of commitment, I’ve been appointed as the Secretary General. During my term, I took the lead to organize multiple events for children at orphanages, hospitals and integration centers and started working on small projects. I also volunteered with the same organization at the refugee camps at Tunisian-Libyan borders following Tunisia’s revolution. I’ve taken then several trainings to strengthen the skills I already possess and acquire new ones. I became a Peer Educator on reproductive health HIV/AIDS and organized several events and campaigns at universities. I then joined AIESEC, the world’s largest student organization and worked on youth projects. With freedom of assembly and accessibility following the revolution, I co-founded with a group of young leaders “My Right” organization, where we’ve been organizing trainings on human rights integration in daily life. Now, I am the African Youth Coordinator at World Peace Initiative Foundation, an international organization that promotes peace worldwide. It is though more challenging as a woman to travel around Africa with its cultural richness and history and work with men as their equal counterpart.
Is there a sector pay gap between women and men? If Yes, please briefly describe.
YES, women still suffer from segregation in the workplace and unequal payment even in the most democratic advanced societies. When applying for a job, women are still asked today if they are single or pregnant. In the 21st century, this is definitely a shame to hire or pay the employees based on gender and not on competence.