UN Volunteer Salomé Ponsin supporting the first consultation session with Youth in Hammamet, Tunisia
UN Volunteer Salomé Ponsin supporting the first consultation session with youth in Hammamet, Tunisia.

Supporting youth participation and civic engagement in Tunisia

UN Volunteer Salomé Ponsin (27, France) has been serving with UNDP Tunisia as a Programme Analyst for the past three years, in support of the Tamkeen project. Led by UNDP Tunisia, this project is playing a significant role in the advocacy and promotion of young people’s participation and civic engagement in the country, as well as in the reduction of inequalities and exclusion.

As socio-economic challenges continue to overshadow the country’s democratic transition since the Jasmine Revolution of 2011, multiple initiatives are attempting to further build bridges between citizens, particularly young people, and state institutions. These are acting as catalysts for development and social inclusion, especially in the disadvantaged regions of Tunisia.

Within the Tamkeen project, which Salomé is engaged in, an innovation challenge was launched last year to support local initiatives. While the results of the challenge are yet to be released, three of the proposed initiatives were focused on environmental issues, such as the transformation of food production at the local level to strengthen community resilience. As International Youth Day focuses on 'Transforming Food Systems' this year, Salomé expressed her point of view on the matter with enthusiasm:

"I believe that the transformation of food systems is a critical issue," she says. "Such a change depends on the way resources are distributed, on the way they are shared, and on mutual aid at a global level. We are lucky to belong to a generation that is aware that such challenges must be tackled together. These challenges require innovation in the way food is being cultivated and produced. We are responsible for producing it in a sustainable way," she adds.

Volunteering is a great way to get involved and to contribute to change, while gaining experience and deepening one’s knowledge." -- Salomé Ponsin, UN Volunteer Programme Analyst, UNDP Tunisia.

Salomé is committed to youth empowerment in a post-revolution environment that calls for innovation. For her, youth centres have a powerful role to play. She points out that the Tamkeen project has a direct impact in this regard at the local level. It enables the establishment of second-generation youth centres.

"Second-generation youth centres play a role that is much more strategic at the local level, since first-generation facilities have been mostly neglected by beneficiaries or by public institutions. In their second generation, these facilities are safe spaces that promote dialogue, support the development of young people, and equip them with skills that facilitate their socioeconomic integration," Salomé explains.

So far, 68 civil society initiatives have been supported at the local level to disseminate the new concept in Medenine, Gabes, Tataouine, Kairouan, Sousse and Jendouba, including the design of new services and activities. The project has also led capacity-building activities for the youth centres’ animators, as well as directors and youth inspectors.

Furthermore, Salomé had the opportunity to contribute to policy making at a strategic level, as the Tamkeen project is also supporting the development of national multisectoral policy on youth. She contributed to supervising and engaging young people in the design of the national policy.

Salomé and the team were able to reach more than 4,800 young people through the involvement of civil society organizations and a youth committee comprising about 80 young people, of which 54% were women. They also succeeded in engaging 864 young volunteers in the implementation of activities that were carried out by citizens' initiatives, supported within the framework of a call for proposals.

"Young people are more and more involved in the elaboration of public policies and in decision-making processes."

This generation is fuelled by a willingness to seize every opportunity to make their voice heard and to make it count."

"I hope that the advocacy campaigns and tools that the UN system is developing, especially UNDP, ensure that we work with and for young people. Youth want to be part of the change, and they are already making it happen," she concludes.