Left to right: Mariem Malouche (TAYP), Zouhayer Rajbi (MP), Sana Salhi (MP), Lotfi Ali (MP), Ikbel Achour (TAYP), Haikel Belgacem (MP), Nozha Bayaoui (MP), Hela Farah (TAYP) Faouzia ben Fodha (MP). TAYP: members of the Tunisian American Young Professionals. MP: Member of Parliament of Tunisian Assembly of the Representatives of the People
TAYP held a round table at the National Democratic Institute (NDI) in Washington DC, with six members of the Tunisian Parliament to understand the objectives and challenges in prioritizing and approving reforms and to inform how the Tunisian diaspora in the US can play a role in supporting realistic and immediate actionable projects in Tunisia. TAYP was represented by Board member Mariem Malouche, VP of development Ikbel Achour and member Hela Farah.
The conversation was vivid and passionate about Tunisian’s assets and opportunities that were not leveraged or visible enough for impact and the greater good. Key topics included regional development and investments in commodities such as agriculture and basic infrastructure, particularly in western and southern regions of Tunisia, Sidi Bouzid, Siliana, Gafsa, etc. To that effect, the members of Parliaments saw diaspora’s support as essential in attracting or contributing to direct investment in the regions. TAYP members pointed out that such investments could only be a consequence of a prior step that requires steady and thoughtful preparation of an enabling environment where leveraging, supporting and involving Tunisian young talents ought to be at the center of this effort.
The “how” was then the focus of the discussion where each participant identified areas that they can best support. On one hand, Members of parliament offered their help to gather and share more detailed information about projects spearheaded by the youth with potential educational and economic impact at the local level, region by region. On the other hand, while describing TAYP’s projects such as RISE and the Handicraft export program, TAYP members offered the benefit of their network of professionals and partners both in US and Tunisia to act as mentors and supporters equipping young entrepreneurs with soft and hard skills as well as strategic planning that set them for success including access to US market or potential partnership with US entities.
Within an hour, sharing facts and experiences created room for immediate and focused actions. Members of parliament appreciated its role as much as the Tunisian diaspora’s role in empowering talents and regional projects and happily extended their invitation for TAYP to present their work for the first time to the Assembly of the Representatives of the People (ARP).
Learn more about the Members of Parliament.
Faouzia ben Fodha is an MP representing the UPL party from the electoral district of Manouba, ran the legislative elections of 2014 on the list of the Free Patriotic Union (UPL) in the electoral district of Manouba, west of Tunis. She was elected as 2nd vice-president of the Assembly of the Representatives of the People (ARP) and is therefore also a member of the Assembly’s bureau. Prior to the elections, she was the director of a primary school and a teacher. She is also involved in the agricultural sector as she owns a farm in her hometown of Mannouba. She holds a psychology degree from the University of Tunis.
Haikel Belgacem is an MP representing the Workers Party from the electoral district of Mahdia–a central coastal governorate–and is a member of the Popular Front, the main opposition parliamentary group in the Assembly of the Representatives of the People (ARP). He actively participated in the December 17th – January 14th revolution, and was a member of Mahdia’s branch of the Tunisian Human Rights League (LTDH) and the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), for which he continues to play the role of regional coordinator for Mahdia governorate. MP Belgacem is a member of two committees in the Tunisian Parliament: the Agriculture, Food Security, Trade and Other Related Services Committee and the Special Committee on Elections.
Lotfi Ali is an MP representing Al Moubadara Party from the electoral district of Gafsa in southern Tunisia. He is a member of two committees in the Assembly of the Representatives of the People (ARP): the Rights and Liberties Committee and the Special Committee on Security and Defense. MP Ali is a businessman and was formerly the president of Gasfa’s section of the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts (Tunisian Employer’s Organization). He is also the president of Gafsa’s section of the Association of People with Disabilities.
Mohamed Maamoun Hamdi is assistant director of the foreign relations department of the Assembly of the Representatives of the People (ARP). He is responsible for monitoring and supervision of the foreign affairs of the parliament focusing on Asia and the Americas. He holds a bachelor’s degree in translation from the Bourguiba Institute of Modern Languages and was a trainee in the Indian Parliament as well as the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Geneva.
Nozha Bayaoui became a Member of Parliament after MP Touhemi Abdouli was offered a ministerial position, opening his place in the ARP to Ms. Bayaoui, who was second on the National Salvation Front list in Sidi Bouzid. MP Bayaoui is now part of the Afek Tounes parliamentary group. She is a member of the Committee on Internal Regulation, Immunity, Parliamentary and Electoral Laws. Prior to the revolution, she was an active member of the teachers’ union. She is an English teacher and holds a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from the University of Tunis.
Sana Salhi is an MP representing the Nidaa Tounes party from the electoral district of Seliana in western Tunisia. She was a founding member of the Seliana branch of Al Chaab movement (People’s movement) before joining Nidaa Tounes in 2013. She is a member of Nidaa Tounes’ executive bureau and communications department. In parliament, she is member of the Committee on Youth, Culture, Education and Higher Education, and 1st assistant rapporteur for the Special Committee on Women, Family, Youth and Elderly. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Tunis and she is currently pursuing a master’s degree in translation.
Zouhayer Rajbi is an MP representing the Ennahda Movement from the electoral district of Seliana in western Tunisia. He holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Tunis and was the head of the financial, administration, and legal affairs department of the Tunisian Water Company (SONEDE). He is the rapporteur of the Special Committee on Regional Development in the Assembly of the Representatives of the People (ARP), and is also a member of the Agriculture, Food Security, Trade and Other Related Services Committee. Prior to being elected to parliament, he was the regional coordinator of Ennahda’s bureau in Seliana. Under the former Bourguiba and Ben Ali regimes, he was imprisoned twice (in 1984 and in 1991, for a total period of eight years) because of his political activism.