On a farm in Abida, in the region of Kairouan, there is an air of hopeful anticipation. Imen Hamdi, a young veterinarian, is calmly tending a cow in a stall which is about to give birth. Imen’s livestock veterinary services are greatly appreciated in the region and many farmers will happily wait an extra few days to ensure they get an appointment with her.
Traditionally a male-dominated industry, Imen is one of the first female veterinary women in the agricultural region of Chebika. She talks passionately about her work. “Becoming a vet was a childhood dream,” she says. “Being a female in the industry has not held me back. I was brought up in this region and already know many of the local farmers. Since the first day I opened my practice in 2017, I’ve had many patients to treat and my client base has grown.”
Imen had the top academic grades needed to qualify for veterinary school and a career in the sector. "After a bachelor's degree in science, I graduated in Biology and Geology at Chott Meriem, before gaining a degree as a Veterinary State Doctor in 2016,” she says. “My academic journey was strengthened by apprenticeships at the State Land Office, the University Hospital Clinic and the Artificial Insemination Center of Sidi Thabet."
When Imen decided to open her practice she realized that she would also be running a business, something that the veterinary school didn’t necessarily prepare her for. She contacted the Tunisian Bank of Solidarity (BTS) to learn about different funding options and also went to the business center, Espace Entreprendre, where she carried out the CEFE training. This is when she found out about the Mashrou3i project organized by UNIDO and funded by USAID, the Italian Cooperation and HP Foundation.
“The business center recommended that I take part in the Mashrou3i project to prepare the business plan I needed to present to the bank,” she explains. Imen completed the HP LIFE e-learning courses and then attended an HP LIFE group coaching workshop to improve her managerial skills. With the help of the Mashrou3i regional trainers she was able to develop her business plan, which enabled her to obtain a credit of 8,500 Tunisian Dinars to finance the equipment and working capital she needed to start her business.
Imen speaks positively about the new skills she learned through Mashrou3i and how the project has helped her start and run her veterinary practice.
"Taking part in Mashrou3i and HP LIFE e-Learning has been very important for me and my business,” she says. “I gained new skills to help me start and successfully run my business. It also taught me how to carefully differentiate myself and my practice from my competitors.”
“The regular mentoring and coaching of Mr. Jalel Amri, the Mashrou3i trainer, has really helped me to overcome day-to-day business challenges. He also invites me to relevant Mashrou3i technical training sessions, such as a workshop on taxation and financing, which I recently attended,” she adds.
The young veterinarian is confident about the future. The region has high potential for livestock farming and Imen has a growing client base of farmers who rely on her practice and artificial insemination services for their cattle. She also plans to raise awareness of her business and attract new clients for her services in neighboring regions.