Local initiative strives to get communities moving across Tunis

North Africa

Youth in Tunis have set up initiatives which will help citizens reduce pollution and increase health benefits through cycling. The youth have worked in cooperation with an organisation for the blind to allow blind people to experience safe cycling in the city.

To decrease pollution and make Tunis more environmentally friendly, young people from the Tunisian capital have launched several projects that aim to get more people riding their bikes across the city. Shakib Ghanemi, a café owner, followed his dream by establishing the first café in Tunisia that rents out and encourages the use of bikes for their health, economic and environmental benefits. Despite being able to open his café “Mio Mondo” or “My World,” the young café owner has faced difficulties achieving his dream for Tunisia. “We hoped to make four bike stations in Tunis the capital, so that people may rent out bikes and park them when they need to protect the environment, but the council has refused the proposal,” said Mr. Ghanemi.

Mr. Ghanemi isn’t alone in Tunis when it comes to biking. Vella Rousion, a youth association, is pushing for a more bicycle-friendly capital. To highlight the importance of providing infrastructure for bikers and care for blind citizens, the association has cooperated with Ro’ya, an organisation for the visually impaired.

“The main aim which we strive to attain is to encourage the Tunisian people to use bicycles. Secondly, there is a humanitarian aim which the association holds, which is to allow blind people to experience biking by using the bicycles with double seats,” said Wisal al-Shabi, a member of the Vella Rousion association.

The bikes used by Vella Rousion have two seats which allows visually impaired people to be aided by a volunteer in enjoying the city atmosphere at night.

Such initiatives are not new to Tunisia. Since the Arab Spring revolution that brought down the 24-year rule of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the youth sector has been increasingly active in Tunisian society and politics. Last year, young Tunisians held an art festival dedicated to showcasing Tunisia’s rising stars in music, poetry, and photography.

Initiatives like Vella Rousion and Mio Mondo have not only affected the current youth generation but upcoming generations are learning from them as well.

“I have learned to be patient and to persevere to reach my goals, knowing that I can reach anything that I truly want,” says one of the younger volunteers.