Updates on ‘SAWTY: صوت شباب تونس’ or ‘My Voice: Voice of Tunisian Youth’
This is an organization (pending legal certification) that some friends and I founded nearly 2 weeks ago, with the vision of uniting Tunisian youth under the banner of transparency and government accountability. SAWTY is a nonpartisan advocacy organization that will be the platform for understanding Tunisian politics, parties, and persons. We hope that by publishing need-to-know information about Tunisian politics, organizing speaker events, panel discussions, debates, and civic education workshops and seminars, that Tunisian youth will be best equipped to cast responsible & educated votes in the upcoming elections (whenever they are). Our goal is much broader than that, though: we hope to instill in ourselves and in our peers the drive to remain active in civil society, and to show our country and the world that we will never again allow our country to be overtaken by despotic autocrats.
With SAWTY, I am Chief Communications Officer and Co-Founder, and as such have met with representatives of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the National Democratic Institute (NDI), Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) the President and Cabinet of el-Nahdha (the Renaissance) Political Party, Tunisian civil society activists and respected journalists, et al. Making important contacts and benefitting from their knowledge, expertise, and insight is a big part of what SAWTY is, and we are already well on our way to making a real name for ourselves.
SAWTY’s first 2 weeks: These first 2 weeks have been hectic beyond comprehension. All of us are first-timers in the ‘Create an NGO’ field, but we are also committed, diligent, hardworking, and flexible. So far, we have:
1. Gathered and filed necessary paperwork to the Interior Ministry to be recognized as an official Tunisian civil society organization. Official certification is expected, but still pending.
2. Drafted our Constitution, though it remains a work-in-progress.
3. Started, and are nearly finished, with the SAWTY official website, which is the central location of all announcements, news & correspondence updates and information, feedback and interaction, etc.
4. Specified a structure to our organization to ensure both flexibility and order. We will have an Executive Committee comprised of the 6 founders (including myself), a Steering Committee, a News & Correspondence Committee, and an Events Planning Committee.
5. Doubled our numbers with fellow young Tunisians, with whom we have begun establishing contacts with students on high school and college campuses, school administrators, journalists, respected artists and musicians of the revolution, lawyers, government officials, leaders and officials of various political parties, etc.
6. Prepared for, and appeared on, our first television interview on France 24 news channel. This appearance was just the first of what we hope to be many such appearances, and are in fact looking forward to at least one more in these coming few days, that being the BBC.
7. Met with students at the Medical School and the Law School in Tunis to create lasting partnerships and build the foundations for large-scale initiatives in the coming weeks and months.
8. Opened files on notable government officials and political parties & their leaders, began gathering research and useful information, so that we may first educate ourselves enough that we may have a real impact on our peers.
.. and I’m sure there are other things I’m forgetting at the moment. But I think you’re beginning to have a good grasp of SAWTY, its foundations, and its future. My work with this organization is, as crazy as it sounds, only HALF of what I have been doing in Tunisia. I spend about half my days at the SAWTY office, and the other half with the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID).