Candidate, Tunisian Constituent Assembly, Ettakatol Party
Omezzine Khélifa left her finance job in France in 2011 to participate in the political transition in Tunisia. She joined Ettakatol, the Tunisian social democrat political party, one of the three parties of the governing coalition. Khélifa ran as an Ettakatol candidate in the Tunis district for the National Constituent Assembly elections in 2011. Khélifa is member of Ettakatol National Council; a member of the Young Socialists Democrats, the youth branch of Ettakatol; and a founding member of Ettakatol’s women’s organization. In 2012, she was honored with the Leaders for Democracy Award from the Project on Middle East Democracy.
[DC]: Tell us a little about what principles guides your work and life decisions.
[Khélifa]: What inspired me is always trying to push my own limits. I chose to work hard and excel in mathematics to prove to myself that I could succeed in an industry where I was not naturally gifted. I managed to get into one of the best engineering schools in France, renowned for its teaching in computer science and mathematics. I was one of a dozen women in a discipline with hundred students. My taste for challenge continued to guide my steps in my first job and the next job and I was usually the only women on a team.
[DC]: Who is your leadership role model? How would you describe your leadership style?
[Khélifa]: My return to my country after the Tunisian revolution was a challenge because I left everything behind me to put my skills to the service of my country. This is the ultimate challenge for me because so many people sacrificed their lives so that we can dream of a democratic Tunisia, a pioneer in the Arab-Muslim world. It is my duty to ensure that their lives are not wasted, my duty to take up the torch they have bequeathed to us Tunisians still alive and full of energy to realize our dream of justice, freedom and dignity.
[DC]: What would you say is the toughest challenge you face in your position?
[Khélifa]: The biggest challenge I face is the challenge to work in the context of political instability, sometimes very violent in our nascent democracy. In my current position in my political party, I have to be creative and at the same time have practical volunteer activists to gather around action projects on the ground in a climate that is discouraging. With my group of activists, we have learned to stay calm and control our emotions to ignore external events and remain united and focused on our coordination of major events, bringing together young people from all regions.
[DC]: What is your greatest career achievement to date? How do you give back to Society?
[Khélifa]: In my current position as advisor to the Minister of Tourism and Finance, I was responsible for creating a communication unit within the Ministry of Tourism without a budget and without creating additional posts or provision of employees. I accepted the challenge and tried to build upon existing human and material resources. I identified suitable people and assigned them as volunteers on this project. I managed to drive positive momentum and we have created a team of effective communicators.
[DC]: Why is International Women’s Day important to women around the world?
[Khélifa]: I think International Women’s Day is important because decision-makers and activists can meet. The future decision-makers around the world can share their experiences and learn about the challenges and successes each person has faced. I also believe that on this day, barriers and misconceptions about countries, nationalities, cultures and religions can stop.
[DC]: What is your advice to the next generation?
[Khélifa]: Do not forget to sow the seeds for our children and grandchildren.