The New Arab Logo

Breaking News
Morocco provides 'Safe Spaces' for youth, tired of unemployment and underachievement Open in fullscreen

Julia Payne

Morocco provides 'Safe Spaces' for youth, tired of unemployment and underachievement

Education is a key concern for Moroccan youth [AFP]

Date of publication: 8 August, 2018

Share this page:
  • 0

  • twitter
Like much of the Arab world, Moroccan youth are concerned with rising unemployment and failing education systems. A new forum for thought could help change this, writes Julia Payne.
As a society, we have hopes and dreams for the future; for our children, our countries, and the global community. 

These aspirations rest on the shoulders of the youngest generation. August 12 2018 marks the 18th celebration of the UN's annual International Youth Day. This awareness day is an unique opportunity to reflect on youth's challenges and to celebrate and support the world's future leaders. This year's theme, "Safe Spaces for Youth", marks the importance of youth's engagement, participation, and freedom of thought.

Moroccan youth serve as an interesting case study to consider for this year's Youth Day. The difficulties they confront are fairly representative of those that youth encounter globally. The UN's 2016 World Youth Report outlines several issues that affect youth, such as high unemployment rates: youth are three times more likely than older adults to be unemployed. 

Unemployed and under-represented

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is particularly impacted by youth unemployment, rising from 29.7 to 30.5 percent (2012 to 2014) in North Africa. Morocco falls slightly below this average at 19.9 percent unemployment for people aged between 15 and 24, affecting men slightly more than women.

However, the youth unemployment rate still lies far above the national average (9.3 percent). Like many countries in the MENA region, nearly half the population is aged under 30. Problems that affect youth should be of the highest priority, otherwise countries risk suffering economically and developmentally.

Unfortunately, on a worldwide level, economic barriers are often coupled with high political disillusionment and traditionally low political participation. It's a worldwide problem with voter turnout lowest among young people. During Morocco's recent 2016 parliament election, voter turnout was 43 percent, a remarkably low figure among urban and educated youth.

Much of the pessimism stems from the fact that youth feel that governments do not represent them and voting will not resolve their dilemas. One Moroccan youth said he had cast a blank vote considering it a message to the government. Another girl, still in high school, said she will not vote when she is older because she feels voting is not worthwhile.

When talking with two young Moroccan students, they cited the pressing issues for youth is a difficulty finding jobs and the inability to freely express themselves. This was loosely confirmed in the National Democratic Institute's findings in the "Youth Perceptions in Morocco: Political Parties and Reforms" report. It stated that youth's priorities in Morocco are educational reforms, addressing unemployment, and curbing corruption.

Both girls interviewed expressed their most urgent concern was the education system, explaining that schools do not prepare them well for the job market. Issues that affect youth are deeply interconnected; an education system that poorly prepares them for the job market precipitates high youth unemployment. A lack of visible change and economic irritation motivates political pessimism. The challenges youth deal with compound upon themselves.
Issues that affect youth are deeply interconnected; an education system that poorly prepares them for the job market precipitates high youth unemployment.
Despite these frustrations, and low traditional political participation, youth are still highly active in their communities. The UN report emphasises that instead of declining, youth participation and civic engagement are in fact evolving. An excellent example of this in Morocco is the recent boycotts of Sidi Ali water, Centrale Danone dairy, and Afriquia gas, which gained a lot of popularity through social media sites like Facebook.

One high school girl interviewed said she felt most comfortable expressing herself on Facebook, but her parents objected to her publicly sharing political views and made her take the account down. Both girls said they were disappointed by the mainstream media underplaying their concerns. These observations underscore the need for youth "Safe Spaces" where youth are welcome to share their thoughts on their needs and hopes for the future.

Safe Space

Safe Spaces include community dialogues, local meetings, workshops, and any forum for expanding viewpoints and encouraging vocalisation. These settings both stimulate civic engagement and provide feedback to authorities. For Morocco, some of these opportunities have arisen from recent reforms attempting to resolve the same issues youth identified. One such initiative is devolution, increasing regional and local authority, affording more chances for community and youth engagement.

These kinds of improvements - along with methods such as participatory development (the identification and implementation of projects that directly address community identified needs) - enable youth to be empowered. Youth benefit from remaining involved, active, and vocal in their communities, and in turn, governance systems can better support youth. 
Safe Spaces include community dialogues, local meetings, workshops, and any forum for expanding viewpoints and encouraging vocalisation.

Local "Safe Space" meetings are just one example of where youth can impact change in their communities. Other instances in Morocco include women's empowerment workshops, such as the High Atlas Foundation's Imagine Workshop, which educates women on their rights, and supports them in expressing and achieving their goals. This proposed programme also involves young women from universities; they not only participate in the workshop but are also qualified to lead them.

The celebration and promulgation of Safe Spaces for youth in Morocco, and beyond, is crucial in supporting what the world needs to ensure flourishing future generations.

Morocco's youth face many of the same problems that other young people around the world do, however, there is also a strong opportunity to effect change, making Morocco an excellent example for countries around the world. Youth are important to support, their passion is tangible. One Moroccan youth concluded her interview by saying, "Morocco is my dad, my second dad. I want to give back to it."


Julia Payne is a student in her fourth year at the University of Virginia and she is currently interning with the High Atlas Foundation in Marrakech, Morocco.


The New ArabComments

Most Popular

Most Popular

    Read More