Sharing a Passion for Empowering Women in STEM: A WES Trainer’s Perspective

TW Breakout

Guest post by Dalel Krichen, Director of WES Optima Syphax Center in Sfax. This post was written in response to a World Cafe breakout session she attended as a part of the TechWomen Delegation Trip to Tunisia in March 2015. Delegation members met with WES trainers during the Social Media for Women Entrepreneurs Training of Trainers (TOT).

Since my tender age, I was fascinated by bridges, highways and skyscrapers. My dream was to design, construct and operate infrastructures and buildings. As I grew up, this dream became a goal. My favorite subjects were mathematics and physics and I wanted to use what I learned to solve real world problems. Therefore, I decided to become a civil engineer. No need to say that construction in Tunisia was a male-dominated industry and I did not get much support from my friends who tried to dissuade me away from the field and talked about the barriers tech women faced!

But, I worked hard, got a scholarship and went to the U.S. to study civil engineering. When I got my first job in Tunisia, I was the only woman engineer and I had to work on sites. It was very challenging not only trying to gain acceptance by the group but mainly to make the rules, innovate and secure a leading place in the company. As I was climbing the ladder to top positions, I felt the need to support women to enroll in scientific and technical fields. Indeed, female students in Tunisia account for 60% of the overall number of students, graduate at a much higher rate and with a much higher score than their fellow male students. But, the rate of female students in STEM fields remains very low. That’s why I decided to conduct an awareness campaign among girls in high schools to urge them to choose technical fields and I organized summer camps for the outstanding students on the theme “women and technology: learn to love it.”

When I was asked to join the WES team I was thrilled. The program puts a great emphasis on specialties related to new technologies needed in the job market. As we were urged to make a special effort to involve women in technology, I was very excited to fulfill a dear dream –increase the visibility of tech women by helping them create their own enterprises and thus promote female role models in the country.

We had the pleasure to host the delegation of TechWomen. They arrived as we were undertaking a TOT about social media which unveiled to us the power of networking which allows women entrepreneurs to create more opportunities and boost their talents in a way sometimes never expected. So all of us were in the mood to really acknowledge technology and we were looking forward to the breakout discussions with the members of the guest group.

As Samia introduced the exchange program and its objectives, I was very impressed by the goals and the opportunities offered to women. I found the professional mentorship, which is part of the program,very inspiring because it offers a valuable opportunity to support women in STEM fields. In many countries, talents are not encouraged and the lack of women mentors in technical fields makes it difficult for emerging tech women to promote themselves.

The breakout discussion about e-commerce, social media, innovation and risk taking for the developing of businesses using technology and marketing engaged us in an open discussion where we shared experiences, best practices and view points.We loved having the perspective and input of the mentors and we thank them for their guidance and advice.

It is heartening to notice that even though women in the delegation are from different parts of the world with different backgrounds and walks of life, they all share the same passion for technology and for the need to empower women in STEM fields. I couldn’t help noticing the spark in their eyes when they spoke about their careers which made me relate to them on a personal level.

To conclude, I would like to say that Tunisia is in need of more scientists and engineers. The TechWomen visit was memorable because it raised our awareness, as a WES team, for the need to empower tech women start-ups. It was also a good opportunity for brainstorming to find new ways and initiatives to get more women involved in successful tech projects.

Dalel KrichenDalel Krichen is a civil engineer and graduated from Washington University in Saint Louis. She worked as a head of the Department of Civil Building in the Ministry of Equipment and Habitat in Sfax before being the general manager of a construction company. She is also a former Member of Parliament, former general secretary of the Board of Tunisian Engineers in Sfax and Deputy Mayor in charge of the Commission of Infrastructure, Management and Construction in the city of Sfax.

Dalel has championed the cause of women’s empowerment and political participation. She works to integrate gender equality in institutions, programs and laws. She set various programs to encourage female students to choose technical fields and help young women engineers to get jobs and succeed in their careers.

Dalel is also the Director of WES Optima Syphax Center, where she provides trainings in leadership, home-based business, entrepreneurship and e-commerce . She works closely with women to help them achieve economic self-sufficiency.

Dalel is married and the mother of two daughters.


E-Commerce in Tunisia: Reflections from a TechWomen Mentor

TechWomen Mentor Marie Carter leaded group discussion on e-commerce

TechWomen Mentor, Marie Carter, leading a group discussion on e-commerce during the WES Social Media for Women Entrepreneurs TOT

“In Tunisia we can’t sell our products online.” This is what I learned when leading a discussion group on e-commerce in Tunisia during the Women’s Enterprise for Sustainability (WES) Social Media for Women Entrepreneurs Training of Trainers (TOT) meeting last week. I anticipated sitting down with a group of trainers to discuss best practices on setting up an online store, branding, configuring shipping, etc., but instead the topic turned to the current challenges Tunisian entrepreneurs face in selling online. Due to the closed currency in Tunisia*, entrepreneurs will be blocked from selling goods on the internet until the government restructures its banking system and removes restrictions on the dinar. This fact made our discussion of e-commerce take a different, yet fruitful turn. There are many best practices that can be applied to e-commerce as well as to marketing a brick and mortar store, which is what many of the WES entrepreneurs are currently doing. Here are some highlights from our discussion:

  • Tell a story: Every product has a story. Whether it’s the story of how the maker crafted the product, the product’s meaning in a local culture, or a historical reference, every object tells a tale. It’s these stories that help buyers connect with products and brands. Consumers often want to understand not only what the product is, but why it has meaning. Make sure to always tell the story of your products, through your website, catalog or in personal interactions with prospective customers.
  • Photography is key: Your products are beautiful in real life, so they should look great in photos! Photograph each item individually or perhaps together in a scene showing how it’s used. Photographs help connect your audience with the product and allow them to imagine how they would use it in their lives. Photographs are an essential part of selling products online, and can be used to advertise in local media or in your store catalog.
  • Help people find you: The internet is a big place with lots of stuff to buy. You want to make sure that people can find your products easily and quickly. It’s important to host your products using an online store or website that is searchable, and preferably has filtering options so buyers can narrow down what they are looking for. Also use words in your product descriptions that you think people may use in a search. If you’re selling out of a store, organize your products in a way that helps your customers easily find what they are looking for.
  • Connect your customers: Consumers want to hear from other customers before they buy. By publicly sharing reviews from other buyers, you can help new prospects see what others love about your products. Reviews give your brand credibility and effectively help people ‘try before they buy’ online.

It’s apparent that Tunisia has work to do before local entrepreneurs can reap the full benefits of e-commerce, but it must be done. In 2014, sellers using Etsy, a popular e-commerce platform, generated sales of $1.39 billion USD, up 43.3% from 2013. The demand for Tunisian products is out there and Tunisian entrepreneurs are ready to sell. In the meantime, local business owners should begin applying these and other best practices to their physical stores so they are ready when the barriers to e-commerce are removed.

About Marie:

prof (2)Marie is a Technical Support Engineer at Yahoo in San Francisco, CA. She served as a TechWomen Professional Mentor in 2014 and attended the 2015 TechWomen Delegation trip to Tunisia. Marie has a B.A. in International Studies and is thrilled to combine her passions for new technologies and inter-cultural communication to support women across the globe. LinkedIn:

*As a closed currency, the Tunisian Dinar (TND) is not allowed to be imported or exported from the country. Additionally, there are strict limitations to its convertibility. “Tunisian Activists Launch ‘Where is Paypal” Campaign” by Jeremy Fryd, January 13, 2015.

Empowering Women Entrepreneurs through Financial Management

Tarek Lamouchi, standing, during a Financial Education training

In preparation for the upcoming Financial Education Training of Trainers (TOT) next week in Tunis, the WES Financial Education Master Trainer, Tarek Lamouchi, reflects on what inspired him to enter this field and why financial education is important for women entrepreneurs.

For over six years I worked at Enda Inter-Arabe, a microfinance institution that is active throughout Tunisia, and much of my work focused on supporting women entrepreneurs. While working closely with entrepreneurs, I’ve noticed there is a general lack of knowledge about financial management. More specifically, I consistently see women entrepreneurs who do not set clear and realistic financial goals or set aside money for emergency situations. They have big dreams and high hopes for themselves and their children; however lack sufficient training to separate their household and business expenses or save adequately to make their dreams a reality.

I have found that training entrepreneurs requires concerted effort on the part of the trainer to break the ice and create a trusting environment. I believe that successful trainings are based on the following principles:

  1. Action Learning in which trainings are interactive and participants have the opportunity to apply the techniques and methods presented. This helps participants better understand and remember the tools and resources shared during the training.
  2. Building on the experience of the entrepreneur by creating an environment in which attendees have the opportunity to share their life experiences. My goal as a trainer is to build on the knowledge that already exists in the room. This creates a dynamic in which participants learn from one another, as well as the trainer, and are empowered by their knowledge and life experiences.

Certainly financial education alone cannot solve all of the challenges that women entrepreneurs face, however it is a great framework in which to begin to successfully organize finances and operate successful businesses.

Additional information about Tarek, and his professional experience and training can be found by visiting his LinkedIn page.

Pour des femmes entrepreneures qui savent gérer leur argent

En préparation pour la prochaine formation des formateurs (FDF) sur l’Education Financière qui pendra place à Tunis du 17 au 22 Janvier 2015, le formateur principal WES pour l’Education Financière, Tarek Lamouchi, partage ce qui l’a inspiré à entrer ce milieu et pourquoi il pense que l’éducation financière, particulièrement pour les femmes, est importante.

J’ai travaillé pendant plus de six ans à Enda Inter-Arabe, une institution de micro-finance active un peu partout en Tunisie, et pendant cette période je travaillais beaucoup avec des femmes entrepreneures.  Ce que j’ai remarqué en travaillant en étroite liaison avec les entrepreneures, c’est qu’elles ne savaient pas comment gérer leur argent. Ces femmes ont de grands rêves et de grands espoirs pour elles même et pour leurs enfants  mais elles ne savent pas comment séparer les dépenses du ménage de celle de l’entreprise ni comment épargner pour rendre ces rêves réels.

Former cette population cible nécessite un peu plus d’effort de la part du formateur pour briser la glace et créer une certaine confiance au sein du groupe. Pour moi, la meilleure technique en formation est basée sur deux grands principes:

  1. L’apprentissage par l’action, où les femmes micro-entrepreneures ne sont pas passives mais appliquent des techniques et des méthodes qu’elles voient au cours de la formation et donc apprennent et se rappellent exactement ce qu’elles ont appris. C’est une formation interactive pendant laquelle on ne s’ennuie pas.
  2. Se baser sur l’expérience des femmes entrepreneures: on oublie souvent que ces femmes, avec leurs expériences dans la vie ont énormément de connaissances et qu’elles ne sont pas conscientes de l’énorme savoir qu’elles ont. Un bon formateur est celui qui bâtit sur cette expérience pour offrir des nouvelles connaissances.

Certes, l’éducation financière à elle seule ne peut pas régler tous les problèmes des femmes entrepreneures, mais elle leur est d’une grande utilité et d’un grand appui pour commencer à organiser leur argent et leurs vies différemment.

Plus d’informations regardant Tarek et son expérience professionnelle peuvent être trouvées sur son profile LinkedIn.

WES: Leadership at the Service of Women’s Entrepreneurship

Rania El Ahmadi at the WES Leadership TOT

Last week, 26 trainers from 13 WES Centers gathered in Hammamet, Tunisia for a Leadership Training of Trainers (TOT) led by WES Master Trainer Ms. Ahlem Ghazouani.

The WES Leadership curriculum focuses on the following elements:

• Communication;
• Vision, purpose and strategy;
• Adaptation to the environment and creation of wealth and opportunities;
• Creativity and initiative; and
• Organizational and business management methodologies.

Rania El Ahmadi and Afaf Zaddem, two WES trainers who participated in the Leadership TOT, shared their individual reflections. Rania discusses the role of WES in helping her to become a leader, support women entrepreneurs and positively influence the development of Tunisia. Afaf focuses her reflection on the impact the training had on her personal and professional growth, as well as the importance of the WES Leaderships curriculum in supporting women entrepreneurs.

My WES Experience

In life, we always have the choice to become a leader, as no one is born a leader, but becomes one. Yes, we each become a leader; but the opportunity must be presented to become one. With WES, I had that chance. My adventure with this program began in June 2012 and, since then, I have seen my dreams come true, ambitions grow and professional status asserted.

Being a trainer has always attracted me. Even though I am an engineer, WES has allowed me to explore this skill and open new horizons with other organizations and institutions. I will always remember the day I had my interview to become a trainer/consultant with ANETI (National Agency for Employment and Independent Labor). I talked about my WES experience and all the important work we do as a part of the program. Personally, I consider the WES team like a family that has always given me the energy to move forward and give the best of myself for the betterment of women, society and Tunisia. And even if the training are limited in time, I have no doubt of the sustainability of the program’s goals and vision.

Thriving by helping others thrive, being fulfilled through the fulfillment of others, being a leader of one’s own life and career – that’s what I’ve experienced with WES. This program has allowed me to discover how one can grow with the help of, and through helping, others.

-Rania El Ahmadi

To what extent may we grow through a training program?

Ms. Ahlem Ghazouani’s talent as a coach, her personality and, particularly, her positive attitude during the WES Leadership training made it an unforgettable experience for me and one, “without which, I would not have taken the leap to carry out my personal mission of joy and pleasure while also inspiring women in my community to do the same.”

I have gained a lot from the training, especially in aligning my emotional and technical skills to advance my role as the director of, and a trainer at, the UNFT WES Center in Kairouan. The content and activities during the training imparted different methodological, strategic and communication skills and were transmitted in a fluid and dynamic manner.

The WES program model of planning a learning process and reinforcing the trainers’ capacities is a real strategic choice for the support of women entrepreneurs.

Finally, a nod to all the participants from the WES Centers in the 11 regions with whom I’ve shared moments of compassion and positive energy.

-Afaf Zaddem

WES: Le Leadership au Service de l’Entreprenariat Féminin

L’équipe et les organisations partenaires du programme WES se sont réunies pour une formation de formateurs (FDF) de Leadership à Hammamet, du 6-8 Décembre, 2014. La FDF présentait un contenu intensif et a pour but de développer le leadership des femmes entrepreneurs qui seront prochainement formées par les formateurs des centres WES dans les 11 régions de la Tunisie. En effet, développer le leadership de l’entrepreneur est la clé de base pour la réussite d’une entreprise et la création de richesses d’une manière générale.

Ce programme de formation aborde le leadership en mettant l’accent sur cinq habilités principales:

  • Communication
  • Fixation de vision, d’objectif et de stratégie
  • Adaptation à l’environnement et création de richesses et d’opportunités
  • Créativité et initiative
  • Méthodologies d’organisation et de gestion d’activité

La formation était assurée par la formatrice principale: Mme. Ahlem Ghazouani la directrice du bureau de « Développement d’Entreprises par la Force de l’Intégration et de l’Innovation » (DEFI), Bureau de Coaching et Accompagnement aux PME.

Rania El Ahmadi et Afaf Zaddem, deux formatrices des centres WES qui ont participé à la formation Leadership, parlent de leurs expériences. Rania se concentre sur le rôle que WES joue dans sa démarche pour devenir un leader et comment WES lui permet de soutenir les femmes entrepreneurs ainsi que de positivement influencer le développement de son pays. Tandis qu’Afaf se concentre sur l’effet que cette formation a eu sur son développement personnel et professionnel, et le rôle que la formation WES joue dans le soutien des femmes entrepreneurs.

Mon Parcours WES

Dans la vie on a toujours le choix d’être un leader, car on ne nait pas leader, mais on le devient… oui on le devient, mais encore faut-il avoir l’opportunité pour le devenir. Avec WES j’ai eu cette chance. Mon aventure avec ce programme a débuté en Juin 2012, et depuis j’observe mon rêve se réaliser, mes ambitions grandir et mon statut professionnel s’affirmer.

J’ai toujours eu une attirance envers le métier de formateur, et même si je suis ingénieur, WES m’a permis d’intégrer ce domaine et m’a même ouvert d’autres horizons avec d’autres organismes et institutions ; je me rappellerai toujours du jour où j’ai passé mon entretien pour devenir formatrice/ consultante avec l’ANETI (Agence Nationale de l’Emploi et du Travail Indépendant), ce jour-là j’ai parlé de mon expérience WES et de tout ce beau travail qu’on fait dans le cadre de ce programme, mon émotion et mon enthousiasme étaient si palpables que la commission de jurés s’est mise à me questionner sur ce projet et ses résultats réalisés. Personnellement, je considère l’équipe WES comme une famille qui m’a toujours donné l’énergie nécessaire pour avancer et donner le meilleur de moi-même pour le bien des femmes, de la société et de la Tunisie. Et même si ce programme a une durée limitée, je suis confiante par rapport à la durabilité de ses objectifs et de sa vision.

S’épanouir en aidant l’autre à s’épanouir, s’accomplir à travers l’accomplissement de l’autre, être leader de sa propre vie et de son propre parcours, c’est ce que j’ai trouvé avec WES, ce programme qui m’a fait découvrir à quel point on peut grandir en s’aidant et en aidant les autres.

-Rania El Ahmadi

 Jusqu’où une formation nous transforme?

La femme que je suis, doit beaucoup à ma rencontre avec Mme Ahleme Ghazouani, notre coach pour la formation Leadership Novateur tenu à Hammamet du 6 au8 décembre 2014, et particulièrement à la bienveillance de notre chère équipe WES Tunisie.

Son talent de coach, ses qualités humaines, et surtout ses sourires, ont fait de cet atelier de Leadership Novateur un séminaire inoubliable « sans lequel je n’aurai pas sauté le pas pour transformer ma mission en un jardin fleuri cultivé dans le plaisir et inspirant des femmes de ma communauté à explorer les leurs ».

J’ai gagné en harmonie avec moi-même et en technicité envers ma mission de responsable du centre et formatrice à WES-UNFT Kairouan. La pertinence du contenu, les activités des différentes habilités méthodologiques, stratégiques et de communication se passaient dans un enchainement fluide, dynamique et dans la co-construction.

Planifier un processus d’apprentissage et de renforcement des capacités des formateurs au programme WES est un véritable choix stratégique pour former dans l’excellence et accompagner des femmes entrepreneurs. 

Enfin, un clin d’œil pour tous les participants des différents centres dans les 11 régions avec qui on a partagé des moments dans l’empathie, l’énergie positive et l’échange.

-Afaf Zaddem

WES Training of Trainers Workshop Begins on January 6, 2013

The WES team is excited to start off the new year with a six-day Training of Trainers (TOT) in Tunisia. The goal of the training is to prepare WES trainers to offer cutting-edge curricula on leadership and social media to women entrepreneurs in their communities. The training also provides an opportunity for partners to deepen their bond as a network of like-minded organizations working for their own sustainability, while empowering women entrepreneurs in their communities.

The training will start with a three-day Innovative Leadership TOT led by Barbara Fittipaldi. Participants will gain skills to support women in their communities to develop as leaders, entrepreneurs, and mangers in a climate of rapid change. On day four, trainer Beth Kanter and co-trainer Stephanie Rudat will facilitate a workshop on Becoming a Networked NGO: Using Social Media Effectively which will expose participants to concepts around transparency, openness and what it means to be a networked NGO. Beth and Stephanie will then lead a two-day TOT on Social Media for Women Entrepreneurs where WES trainers will learn how to provide technical skills and best practices to support women entrepreneurs as they design and expand businesses.

Stay tuned for more updates on our blog, Twitter and Facebook Page!


WES Entrepreneurship TOT Begins in Tunisia Next Week!



The WES team is thrilled to announce that our first Training of Trainers (TOT) on Entrepreneurship will be held in Tunis from October 15-19, 2012. The TOT will bring together 18 trainers from eight WES Partner Organizations across Tunisia. The trainers will participate in an exciting and intensive five day training led by expert trainers Rym Baouendi and Widad El Hanafi.

The goal of the training is to prepare trainers to offer WES curricula on entrepreneurship, home-based business, and e-commerce through their WES Training Centers.

The workshop will be divided into two sections. Days 1-2 will focus on home-based business and e-commerce led by Rym Baouendi, Managing Director, Medina Works. Days 3-5 will focus on training trainers to deliver the WES Entrepreneurship curricula facilitated by Widad El Hanafi.

Follow the WES Facebook page, @WESGlobal and blog for more updates on the workshop.

Women’s Enterprise for Sustainability Conducts First Training in Tunisia

BPS training session in progress

BPS training session in progress

16 representatives from 8 non-governmental organizations spanning across 6 different regions of Tunisia gathered in Tunis on June 26th for the Business Planning for Sustainability (BPS) Training of Trainers (TOT). The three days training, coordinated by the WES staff in San Francisco and Tunisia, was held in the Tunis Grand Hotel and was led by Ms. Widad El Hanafi.

WES Country Director, Chema Gargouri opened the training with an introduction to the WES program and vision for training Tunisian women in running sustainable business ventures.

Ms. Widad El Hanafi, former Country Program Manager for Women in Technology (Morocco) and Country Director for E-Mediat (Morocco) led the BPS TOT sessions. The topics covered during the training included essentials of business planning, brainstorming the organization’s objectives, exploring the entrepreneurship training market in Tunisia and identifying target groups. The participants were trained on planning the operations of their organizations with focus on issues like recruitment and cost analysis of furniture, fixtures, equipment, maintenance and labor.

The participants were encouraged to design their marketing strategies based on demands and needs of their local communities. Institute of Internal Education will provide customizable marketing material to the Partner Organizations during the kick-off conference in September. The most critical aspect of the BPS training involved creating financial tracking tools and cost recovery models. The concept of nominal social fees for services was introduced to help organizations pay for expenses and create sustainable businesses.

WES Team in Tunisia with trainees at BPS training

WES Team in Tunisia with trainees at BPS training

WES social media platforms were launched during the BPS training and received phenomenal response. Ahmed Hamza, WES Program Coordinator, actively tweeted and updated the program Facebook page. The WES Facebook page received over 65 likes in two weeks and continues to receive several messages expressing interest in the program.
The participants were excited to interact with the WES team at IIE via skype on the 2nd day of training. Heather Ramsey, Director, Center for Women’s Leadership Initiatives and Heather Murphy, Sr. Program Officer welcomed the participants to the WES program and outlined the program objectives.

The 8 organizations are expected to submit completed business plans for review and shall receive feedback from the WES team. It’s heartening to see that so many members of the Tunisian community have started their journey towards creating sustainable organizations and contributing to the economic progress of the country. The WES team is honored to take this journey of economic empowerment with the aspiring and talented Tunisian women.