Born and brought up in a traditional family, Asma Mansour felt the frustration of following her parent’s strict rules and having no room to create her persona. She started writing about the Tunisian society’s treatment of women and her perception of life when she was just 15.
“In Tunisia everyone will dictate what you should do…your parents will decide who you are going to marry and the kind of job you are going to take,” she said in her TedX Amsterdam Women speech.
Asma’s childhood experiences were quite challenging. When she was 15, she ended up in a police station after her father had falsely reported that the internet café she frequented with her friends was a brothel. Although the police realised it was a lie, the incident had a profound impact on Asma’s life. She had to see a psychiatrist, who agreed with her father’s actions, leaving Asma shocked.
It was also a source of strength as she was able to learn how to stand up for herself. She finally left home and over the years, she build an environment for herself where she could be herself and be happy.
“In Tunisia everyone will dictate what you should do…your parents will decide who you are going to marry and the kind of job you are going to take”. Asma Mansour
As a student at the Manouba University’s higher Institute of Account and Business, she became a member and leader of the Junior Chamber International and AIESEC. She not only gained experience in tackling various issues but also was able to manage teams and negotiate partnerships. The United States Embassy recognised her potential and gave her a scholarship at the Mediterranean School of Business where she undertook a business management course.
She later earned her Master’s degree at Marouba in 2013. While there, she founded the People’s Movement for Human Rights Learning, which sought to integrate human rights into the lives of Tunisian citizens.
In 2011, after a trip to Japan, Asma came home to start the Tunisian Centre for Social Entrepreneurship together with Sarah Toumi and Hatem Mahbouli.
The first of its kind, the centre helps in the creation of local ecosystems and coming up with new ideas to tackle social problems.
“I am working closely with community members. I am co-creating services with me, and empowering young people in the country to be truly themselves,” she said in the TedX talk.
Her efforts were recognised by various organisations. The centre inspired the creation of two other centres in Algeria and Morocco, which work together to raise awareness of social entrepreneurship in the Magreb.
In 2014, she was an Ashoka Fellow in Tunisia and was named among BBC’s 100 Women. In 2016, she was listed among the 42 African Innovators by Ventures Africa.
For Asma, the fact that she inspired her mother to make her decisions is what makes her happy.