MEPI Alum of the Month – Ihsen Amri
Happy New Year from Gabes, Tunisia
While many talented young Tunisians plan to move abroad, Ehsen Amri chose to stay in his hometown in Gabes. Ehsen Amri is a 2014 MEPI Student Leaders Program (SLP) alum and the co-founder of Volonté et Citoyenneté (Will and Citizenship in English), a youth-led NGO based in Gabes.
Ehsen has been a community activist from an early age, which helped him get selected for SLP and take part in leadership training in Benedictine University. The program gave him the opportunity to taste American civilization and culture while interacting with inspiring participants from across the Arab world. Following his participation in SLP, he applied his new leadership and project management skills to the fields of politics, community empowerment, local governance, youth resilience, and socio-economic inclusion.
Before the 2019 Tunisian legislative and presidential elections, Ehsen led a team of seven enthusiastic youth to implement a project entitled the “Tunisian Initiative for Youth Inclusion” that was funded by MEPI. The project trained over 90 young candidates in politics and parliamentary procedure, and 12 of the candidates successfully won seats in the Parliament. The project also helped 65 civil service organizations lead voter education campaigns that reached over 280,000 citizens, using various tools like graffiti art, talk-radio shows, café talks, online dialogues, and streamed political debates.
In 2020, Ehsen designed and led a project entitled “Tasharok for Community Empowerment” to help the community of Basboubsa (Gabes governate) gain better access to better public services, such as and waste management, and find employment. Ehsen’s organization also assisted the municipality of Bouchamma (Gabes governate) draft a municipal waste management plan, making it the first of 16 municipalities in Gabes to develop this strategic document. The strategy helped mitigate social discontent triggered by the accumulation of waste in Gabes.
Ehsen’s organization also helped seven women learn how to generate income for their families and communities. For instance, they learned how to set up microbusinesses to sew fishing nets, sell eggs, and provide welding services, helping them feel more valued and well-respected in their community. The small businesses were financed with microloans that don’t have to be repaid until the company is stable. video
Ehsen shared: “I have always believed that if Tunisians want to grow, they should stop complaining about being victims of a system that oppressed them for decades, or that their fate is controlled by strong countries, or that their natural resources are exploited by multinationals corporations. We should roll up our sleeves, get to work, make real sacrifices, and pave the way for the next generation to have a better life and a brighter future.