“The change we aim for in Morocco needs to be steady and based on scientific and objective analysis of public policies where youth are engaged. That’s one of the great ways to involve good fresh minds in decision making processes” said Meriem El Hilali Yes Alumna (‘06). November 2, 2013 marked the opening of a first round of debates between youth citizens, civil society organisations and policy-makers under the framework of the MENA Policy Hub (MPH) debates, an initiative launched by Meriem El Hilali from Morocco.
The purpose of the MPH platform is to pave the way for a future generation of Moroccan policy-makers and analysts and enable them to contribute directly to the formulation of public policies at the local and national level. MPH, led by Meriem with the help of other young activists from different Moroccan cities, aims to help support Morocco in enshrining participatory democracy at the grassroots level. The first event was an opportunity for citizens and stakeholders to discuss and propose ideas in Morocco and to inform up-and-coming analysts in their research.
The event was organised in partnership with the British Embassy in Rabat and with the official endorsement of the Honourable Ambassador at Large of His Majesty the King of Morocco, Her Excellency Dr. Assia Bensalah Alaoui.
The next MPH event will involve a larger group of Moroccan YES ALUMNI who will benefit from a training in policy analysis and critical policy debates covering a wide range of issues involving youth in Morocco and in the MENA region.
by Rami Zouaoui, Busra Cetin & Dory Merhy
“I’m aware of the problem of pollution in my country and other countries so I want to create a solution in a better way that has never been thought about before,” says Ozumcan Akin a college student in Istanbul (YES 2012). Ozumcan is member of the environmental activism track in this week’s YES Alumni workshop in Istanbul. He is concerned about the increasing problem of litter in Istanbul, where 16 million people live. The trash is even collecting on the bottom of the Bosphorous where divers have had to clear out big areas of solid waste.*
Ozumcan and his peers decided to develop a trash can project to address the city’s trash problem. He demonstrated creativity with the idea of making throwing out trash “fun.” He wants to design a simulation to basketball where the garbage can is “the hoop” and if the trash gets into it, the can will flash and make clapping sounds.
In the environmental workshop, he is learning about the steps to tackle challenges and how to design the steps of his project. Ozumcan sees that if his project reaches effectiveness in his community, it will be adopted in other places having similar environmental problems. He says he’s feeling thankful to have had the opportunity to participate in this event because he was able to meet his role model– Ergem Senyuva, one of the leaders of the Green movement in Istanbul.
Audience opinions: How do you get people to recycle in your community?
By Abedin Kustura, Fatihah Jacob & Gulan Abdullah
Many youth in Morocco believe they can in land a job in the private sector after leaving school, according to Jihad Hajhouji, (YES 2008), but she says their expectations don’t match the reality. When they are unable to find a good job because of high unemployment, Jihad says they lose faith and give up hope in the job market. However, this hopelessness doesn’t include Jihad. She views the situation as an opportunity to take action and join her fellow YES alumni to make a change. She educates youth about how to maximize their skills through the non-profit seminar, Rabat Entrepreneurial, that runs for a week during summers.
The Education Activism track of the YES Alumni workshop in Istanbul, was a chance for Jihad to explore other alternative methods of project design and management so she can incorporate them into her project effectively. Jihad is involved in an intensive four-day process while working in a team that shares her same goal for their home countries. The process includes identifying community issues in their home country by analyzing the needs and desires of affected community members, and learning how to maintain self-sustainability. Jihad’s team meticulously planned their project design by identifying their goals and objectives including a success metric that could be implemented to test their projects.
You tell us: How do you address youth unemployment in your community?
* Office, International L. Global Employment Trends 2012. Geneva: International Labour Office, 2012. Internet resource. 21 Sept 2013.
By Gabriella Veleva, Meriem El Hilali & Mohamed Oulad Saiad
“Aside from being a YES Alumnus, I still feel responsibility towards this program that really changed my life,” says Mujtaba Taimoor Karimi (YES 2009) from Bahrain. Mujtaba has lived through a conflicted situation in his country during the wave of revolutions of the Arab Spring. He was personally involved along with his father in the march against corruption within the political system. The tension within Bahrain not only led to continuous strikes and social movements but hurt the economic performance of many local and foreign businesses in the capital, Al Manama. His father was arrested and detained for 6 months because of his activism in the protests. He was not alone. Thousands of Bahraini protesters were arrested in 2012.*
His involvement in the protests made Mujtaba think deeply about the necessity of working toward peacebuilding and conflict resolution. Mujtaba was part of the YES workshop conflict transformation track in Istanbul that included a field visit to a photo exhibit highlighting the recent protests in Gezzi park. During this workshop he became fully aware that peace is not the absence of conflict but rather the presence of creative alternatives. Mujtaba wants to widen up the circle of young peace builders in Bahrain namely through exchange pathways like the Youth Exchange & Study program.
Share your ideas: How do you encourage peacebuilding in your community?
* The Guardian, June 19th 2012.
“I always wanted to make an impact and leave a legacy…I want to change someone’s life,” says Lina El Sawy (YES 2004) from Egypt. It was during her study abroad experience that she realized how environmental issues are treated differently in Malaysia, where people are careful to keep the streets clean. “We just throw our trash in dumpsters” she says.
Lina chose to be a part of the environmental activism group in the YES Alumni Istanbul workshop. She wants to improve her program design and management skills and implement them in her future projects. She said that before she didn’t know where to start, but the workshop helped her organize her ideas and set up a plan for a recycling awareness campaign. She decided to step up and be the change she wants to see in her community, focusing on recycling.
Lina considers engaging people in her community the most difficult part of the project because recycling is not common where she comes from. However, she is determined to distribute trash cans around her city and clean up the streets.
“I truly believe that the problem we have in Egypt is that we suddenly discover that we live together, without knowing one another,” says Mohamed EL BETITY (YES 2010) from Egypt. He has participated in the revolution since it started in 2011 and it was in Tahrir square that Mohamed discovered just how diverse Egyptians are. He explained that while cultural diversity is meant to enrich a country’s population and add up to a common identity, a lack of mutual understanding leads to tension. In Egypt, this lack of solidarity has led to infighting within the revolution.
Mohamed is now attending the YES workshop conflict transformation track in Istanbul, which includes dialogue on how to define a conflict situation and solve it creatively. For example, Mohamed wants to launch an internal exchange study project for high school students within his country. He believes that if Egyptian students get to know people from different regions through real life experiences, they will be more willing to listen and work together during periods of conflict.
“Elections are not about pulling the guns, knives and fighting against the people,” said Abdul-Kadir Ameyaw, (YES 2011) from Ghana. He described local elections as chaotic, with fighting in the streets. He believes that the violence stems from a lack of education–people don’t have the tools to find peaceful solutions to their frustration with the government.While studying in the United States, Abdul saw a big contrast in how peaceful elections were.
The Education Activism theme at the YES Istanbul workshop helps alumni to formulate and implement a project that educates and raises awareness about a particular issue in their home countries. The participants are guided through all five steps of the project cycle model in details in order to assist them on how to design and manage a sustainable project. Abdul decided to be a part of a group of active YES alumni to advocate for peaceful elections in Ghana, which was funded by Alumni Innovative Fund.
“I want to use art and photography to help me build the change in people’s lives,” says Hadi Katish from Israel (YES 2012). Photography changed Hadi’s perspectives and the way he approaches the social issue he cares about, reducing socioeconomic gaps. A camera in his hand makes him closer to his surroundings in a creative way. However, Hadi will start mandatory military training for the next three years, where the use of electronics is forbidden. This will be a challenge that he is willing to undertake without letting go his most favourite passion. For now, he is a young photographer with dreams. Being a movie producer is his ultimate goal.
“Because of the increasing salinity…farm lands have been either closed or sold off,” says Moosa Al Lawati , a 23 year-old YES Alumnus from Oman. He is very concerned about the endangered agriculture of the north coast of Oman.“We were very known for producing mango and sweet lemon 10 years ago…now we could no longer accomplish that,” Moosra explains.
The loss of farm land has made Moosa determined to find ways to preserve the environment by studying civil and environmental engineering and focusing on pollution and proper usage of water. Moosra developed an idea of desalinitation of the unusable farm land, removing salt so that the soil can someday grow crops again. He is hoping to be able to gain more international knowledge and experience that he could incorporate into his desalination project while at the YES Istanbul Workshop.
Unfortunately, the YES Program in Oman has been recently terminated and no students are being sent to the US, all they have now is the alumni group. Moosa is doing his best to get the program back to proper functioning.