“You win, at the end. You help them to change, and to see female colleagues from another perspective.”

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Episode notes

Salma Ben Aissa Braham is a Tunisian humanitarian professional, and currently Country Director for the IRC in the Central African Republic.

She spent half of her career (so far!) in her home country, and was entering her prime working years around the time of the 2011 revolution.

We talk about that, naturally. We go on to discuss how she’s approached her work in large-scale, seemingly intractable crises in C.A.R. and Yemen.

Another major theme is the complicated relationship between the global South and the global North within the humanitarian profession. We talk at length about peoples’ expectations and biases, and what Salma expects of herself as an Arab, woman professional.

Topics discussed:

[02:20] Explaining the humanitarian profession to friends and family (despite the stereotypes). Early experiences with international organisations in Tunis.

[07:45] Her experience of the 2011 revolution. A change in perspective in the first few months after the flight of Ben Ali.

[13:45] Working on democracy promotion in the region. A close-up encounter with extremism that pointed her in a new direction.

[17:50] Experiences Yemen in 2013, versus those in 2019. Working as an Arab woman in the region.

[22:35] Challenges, successes and lessons from working in the Central African Republic. Believing in local partners and local people.

[29:35] Diversity in management roles in international humanitarian organisations. Encountering some pretty ridiculous stereotypes.

[34:10] How to take “localisation” of humanitarian responses seriously.

[40:10] Plans after international humanitarian work. Her ambitions for Tunisia.