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Tunisia: How I became an independent woman

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Tunisia: How I became an independent woman

I returned to Tunisia with my family after 8 years in Germany. The advice and support I received from the CTA enabled me to start a new chapter in my life. Now I’m happy and run a shop selling stationery.

My name is Nabiha. I’m 42 years old and have 3 children. I live in a rural area of north-western Tunisia.

I returned from Germany a few years ago and became self-employed. Today I run a shop selling stationery. I'd never have thought that one day I would have a shop of my own. Now people in the region are happy that they can buy items locally at a good price.

Nabiha has run a stationery shop since April.

Why I returned to Tunisia

I studied Economics and Social Management in Tunisia. I didn’t complete my studies for various reasons. I began working in nursery schools, which is where I met my husband. He has Palestinian-German roots.

We decided to leave for Germany in 2014, I was able to enter the country legally due to the Family Reunification Law. I wanted to work or complete my studies in Germany. But things didn’t run according to plan and our circumstances were difficult. I brought my 3 children into the world. I had to fully concentrate on raising the children, so I didn’t have the time for my professional development. I also couldn’t feel at home in Germany, even though the people there were very friendly.

Pupils in the region use Nabiha’s shop.

I learned the language and was independent in many everyday tasks – I’d go with my children to the doctor without my husband, for example. But I still felt lonely, since I didn’t have any friends in Germany. I tried to make an effort to meet new people, but that didn't work out either. My husband and I decided to return to Tunisia after 8 years in Germany. We felt that was the best decision for us and our children.

My new start in Tunisia

My husband and I went directly to the Employment Office upon returning to Tunisia. The Employment Office referred us to the German-Tunisian Centre for Jobs, Migration and Reintegration (CTA). We submitted an application there and shortly afterwards, one of the CTA’s partner organisations contacted us. It’s called CIES. The team of advisors informed us about the options for professional development in the Jendouba Governorate. We were given lots of useful tips, such as how to start your own business.

I completed a 6-day training course on starting a business and was awarded a certificate. I wanted to open a stationery shop and presented my business idea to a committee. I had collected data about potential competition, the success rate and demand in the region. I was really happy when I was given the green light for further support.

I immediately began the search for premises. My husband helped me and when we found a suitable shop we signed the contract. CIES paid the rent and assisted me with buying store displays and products. I opened my shop in April 2023 and received support in all areas. Business in the shop is going really well. It’s the first stationery shop in the region, so I don’t have any competition. 

Also, there are 3 schools in the local area. All the pupils need stationery and they can get everything they need in my shop.

It feels good to be back in Tunisia

I can find enough time for family and relaxation despite my new workload. I spend time with my children in the morning and get them ready for school. Only after that do I open the shop. I deal with the bookkeeping and documentation in the evenings.

Stationery products from Nabiha’s shop.

I’m delighted every time a child visits my shop. The children already know me well and are happy to drop in alone if they need something. The local population also appreciates being able to buy their stationery products locally, since they no longer need to travel to the city.

Now I’m independent and can take care of myself and my children. I can establish contact with other people and make friendships.

The shop makes me very happy. I look forward to whatever the future holds in store for me. I want to continue developing my shop and am already thinking about further steps. I want to add books to expand my product range. There aren’t any such shops in the region. My advice: make plans and act to make them come true!

This text is written in simple language to ensure that it’s easy for everyone to understand.

Support with Nabiha’s return

Those involved in Nabiha’s successful return include:

As of: 07/2023

Now I’m independent and can take care of myself and my children.

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