Imen Ayouni, 28, is one of Tunisia’s top female dentists. She wants to ensure girls and women are represented across all fields of work.
“Helping people is one of my main missions in life. As a dentist, I help people every day. It’s not been an easy journey becoming a dentist. I’ve often faced barriers just because I am a woman. When I was training to become a dentist, I worked at the local university hospital. Men would come in and refuse to see a female dentist. They felt we were less competent than men.
“When men behaved like this, I would try and talk to them so they understood competency and skills are not gender-based. We’re all taught the same curriculum. Even today, discrimination still takes place at my own practice. Some people listen to us, others don’t, but we try our best.
“I’ve been lucky. I am from an open-minded family that has allowed me to follow my dreams. They let me train to become a dentist and marry a man I loved, when I was ready. Many girls in rural parts of Tunisia are held back because of their gender. They are forced to stay at home, while others enter into early marriage, because that’s what society dictates.
“From an early age, I realised life doesn’t have to be like this for girls, which is down to the Girl Guides. During my time as a Girl Guide and now as a leader, I developed leadership and team-building skills. My experience empowered me as a girl in society and in my role today.
“Tunisia still has a way to go when it comes to equal rights. We’re yet to see any women in Parliament, however Guiding has provided other female role models to look up to. Haifa, my Girl Guide leader, has inspired me to travel overseas and she’s really shaking up Tunisian society. She’s a single woman who has paved her way as a computer science engineer – and she’s helping girls to take action through her Ted Talks.
“As well as my dentistry work, I’ve been inspired to pursue a PhD too. I am lucky to have a job I love. I want other girls and women to do the same. I encourage girls to speak out and take action. We shouldn’t wait for men to make decisions for us. Women make up half our society, so it’s only right we’re represented across all fields.”
"I encourage girls to speak out and take action. We shouldn’t wait for men to make decisions for us"