Tunisia. The future in the hands of young people.

While the country is in the grip of a serious economic crisis, in the oasis city of Tozeur, the OxyJeunes youth Centre focuses on schooling and civic education: “Today our children are agents of change”, the director Moufida Hachef tells us.

Sugar, canned goods and some typical sweets are the products collected thanks to the collection in the shops of the Ras Edhraa district, in Tozeur, which will end up in the parcels destined for the
neediest families in this area inhabited largely by Bedouins
from the surrounding villages.

The idea comes from Asma, Mahmoud and their friends from the OxyJeunes Youth Centre, all born and raised in the oasis city surrounded by the Tunisian desert, 450 km south of Tunis, which until a few years ago was a thriving tourist destination. Today, however, Tozeur is struggling amid an unprecedented economic and social collapse.

The terrible crisis that has hit Tunisia is hitting harder here than elsewhere, precisely because the wealth of the area, together with the nation’s most prized dates, has always been represented by holidaymakers, who dropped significantly after the Islamic attacks and then disappeared completely during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many hotels have never reopened since then, as is the case with numerous tourism-related businesses. In the meantime, the effects of the war in Ukraine, with the collapse of cereal imports and the increase in raw material prices, have hit Tunisians hard and today the situation is worsened by the drought, which is slowing down local production.

Thus, despite the iron fist of president-boss Saïed against speculators, empty supermarket shelves are now the norm and various products, from milk to flour, are rationed. In Ras Edhraa, due also to unemployment which reaches 25%, many families struggle to put food on the table: the packages prepared by the OxyJeunes youths will allow them to have something to eat.

The Centre is a creation of the “Amal pour la famille et l’enfant” association, a local reality created to give a chance for a future to a generation that grew up in a climate of disillusionment, after the hopes generated by the Jasmine revolution of 2011.

In a country where every year 100,000 students leave school before the age of 16 and where psychological disorders often arise at a very early age, it is essential to invest in young people, who make up a third of the Tunisian population but for whom there is no network of support that prevents cases of social hardship and deviance.

For this reason, some of the objectives of the Centre are to combat school dropout, cultivate the talents of young people in the most varied sectors, promote their potential but also their protagonism, and train them in active citizenship.

An after-school club, therefore, operates at the Ras Edhraa Centre, with reinforcement lessons for various subjects and foreign languages, but cultural, socialization and training initiatives are also organized on issues such as children’s rights, non-violent communication, environmental protection and more “There are various ‘clubs’ with proposals ranging from artistic workshops to sporting activities”, explains one of the centre’s operators.

They also underlining the attention to the families from which the children come: “For mothers, who often have no studies behind them, Amal offers literacy courses, while trying to train parents in their responsibilities and the value of education for the future of their children, who in many cases they would instead prefer to see leave for Europe.” Poverty remains a very strong driving force that pushes thousands of Tunisians to abandon their homeland.

In recent years, therefore, the association has decided to focus on the age range from high school to the start of university. An intuition of the director – and soul of the structure – Moufida Hachef, a 36-year-old who herself grew up in a poor family and achieved a baccalaureate in English Literature and Civilisation. “In these young people I see our future – explains Moufida -. We started with simple activities such as editing videos, writing a CV or using the internet.”

Amal also has an office in Tunis where she manages a professional training centre and a reception centre for single mothers. She has managed to return to the network of the Jeunes des 2 Rives programme, which aims to educate the new generations of Mediterranean countries in citizenship and international solidarity, through local construction sites – such as the one held in Tozeur and dedicated to environmental sustainability in the oasis – and abroad.

“Some of us  – says Moufida – took part in exchanges in Morocco and France: a precious opportunity to see the world and also to realize that the solution is not always to emigrate because living conditions can be harsh even outside Tunisia”.

As they increased, the more ‘historical’ visitors to the Ras Edhraa Centre began to become its beating heart: “Slowly they began to take on some responsibilities, to help us with activities for the children and to engage in volunteering.

Today this structure is their second home. Its name, which is a play on words between the terms ‘oxygen’ and ‘youth’, reflects the opportunity to breathe the freedom and joy of expressing oneself, without stereotypes or gender discrimination. Here boys and girls have the same roles, everyone lends a hand and is involved in decisions.”

This gave rise to an Advisory Council made up of ten members, which organizes various community service activities: in addition to the food collection for poor families, the volunteers have recently carried out a project to redevelop some school buildings in the neighbourhood through repainting, cleaning and creating murals.

“Our Centre has become a real point of reference for families  – says Moufida  –  and I try to make them understand that this can represent a springboard for their children towards a better future. Among the young people who have passed through here, some have now become teachers, those who work in the world of theatre… in whatever sector they have chosen to engage, they are becoming actors of change. It is people like them who hold the future of Tunisia in their hands, starting with their community.”

Chiara Zappa/MM


South Africa. Nonhle Mbuthuma and Sinegugu Zukulu.

Activists Nonhle Mbuthuma and Sinegugu Zukulu have stopped destructive seismic testing for oil and gas off South Africa’s Eastern Cape, in an area known as…

Read more


Beautiful Kaya.

Kaya was the most beautiful girl in the village. All the boys courted her, each bringing her small gifts. There were so many invitations from her…

Read more

Youth & Mission

Tunisia. The future in the hands of young people.

While the country is in the grip of a serious economic crisis, in the oasis city of Tozeur, the OxyJeunes youth Centre focuses on schooling and…

Read more