International activist Aya Chebbi, who played a key role in the Tunisian Revolution, visited Scotland this week
A young woman who played a key role in bringing change in her nation has stressed the importance of technology being used alongside work on the ground to create social movements.
Aya Chebbi helped forme the backbone of the uprising that led to the overthrow of long-time dictator Zine El Abdine Ben Ali in Tunisia in 2011, finding her political voice through a blog entitled Proudly Tunisian.
And the 30-year-old spoke to Third Force News this week as she travelled to Scotland to appear as the keynote speaker at the annual conference of Scotland's International Development Alliance.
Since utilising support for change in Tunisia, with social media playing a key role in the work carried out by activists, Chebbi has gone on to become an award winning Pan-African feminist and internationally acclaimed activist.
And she is using her visit with Scotland to publicise her work to mobilise young people into filling leadership positions where they can fight against division in the world.
She said: “My mission is to radicalise youth to bring about social change. We see a lot of other groups around the world using radicalisation to divide the world. These people are using technology, tactics and recruitment strategies. I’m trying to do the same but by bringing people together, to bring them to a non-violent, non-misogynist space where they can be in power.
“My vision is to bridge North Africa with the rest of the continent because it has been disconnected for so long. Unity is my ultimate vision.”
Since creating her blogs - which were published at OpenDemocracy, Al-Jazeera, and Foresight Africa – Chebbi has travelled across the African continent to support and train thousands of social movement leaders and activists on mobilization, blogging, leadership and non-violence.
She has founded the Afrika Youth Movement, which aims to bring young people across the continent together to become empowered and increase coordination between activists.
And Chebbi believes that African activists can offer support to their European counterparts, with the far right on the rise and efforts to dilute democracy taking place across the western world.
“The world is getting worse,” she said. “I look at Europe and think we need to offer support as we have lived under oppressive regimes and extremism for so long. We know how to organise resistance under these conditions and support Europe and North America when it is going through difficult times.
“I think this is a good time for Africa. We have the most youthful population in the world, and half of the world will be African by the end of the century. A lot of change can happen and this brings energy, but the critical thing we need to work on is leadership. We need to get the young people into leadership roles and if we manage to do that many things will change within different fields.”
Although social media has played a key role in creating change in nations such as Tunisia, Chebbi warns that it cannot be the sole driver of activism.
She said: “The internet is great and technology is a tool to mobilise and bring people together, for organising and protesting. In Tunisia and in Egypt, you had the first examples of large groups of people using social media to organise large scale protests.
“But at the same time when I built this movement, we realised that many of the young people that we wanted to reach were offline. We started to create grassroots hubs.
“You need both. You need to build movements but you also need the work on the ground. The fascinating thing is that people in the sixties managed to organise protests when they didn’t have Facebook or Twitter. It fascinates me how they did that, and what we can learn from them to hopefully do a much better job now we have technology.”
To learn more about Aya Chebbi and her campaigns, visit her website.