Submitted by Matthew Johnson
On the final day of breakout sessions during Morocco’s Ramadan Youth Outreach event, the discussions focused on being involved in local government. The morning started off with a round table discussion with seven youth leaders of NGOs. The afternoon session was a discussion with elected officials on how young people can get involved.
Through the conference, there have been debates on how the youth can make an impact on Moroccan society. Really the answer is simple – get involved. If the youth in Morocco aren’t active in participating in society, change will never take place.
During the morning session with the NGO leaders, there was a very interesting discussion on reasons why youth don’t get involved. Below are a few reasons I heard from the youth:
“I feel so behind educationally, that I don’t think I would know what to do if I got involved.”
“I want to be involved, but youth does not exist in this society. Even if I get involved, no one will listen to me.”
“I feel ignorant of how government works. I don’t know what I can do.”
As more and more students talked, I sensed a fear of getting involved – a fear of not knowing what to do, a fear of failure, and a fear of being inadequately prepared.
During this discussion, two young women stood up and shared their thoughts. One young woman said, “We need to stop complaining and get involved. We must be positive and not negative. That is the only way we can make change happen.”
Another woman said that she never wanted to be involved in politics because she didn’t think she could ever make a difference. But through encouragement of her friends, she decided to run for a local political office. Much to her surprise she won the election and she’s been able to make a huge impact in her community! She told the youth that unless they get involved, they will never make a difference. They can’t be afraid to get involved.
These two young women delivered a powerful message to the 160 youth participants. It was so great to see two young women challenging their peers. At the conclusion of this session, I talked to several youth that were encouraged and challenged to get involved and make a difference.
The following day during the closing ceremony, John Groarke, the USAID/Morocco Mission Director issued a perfect challenge to the participants saying, “change will only come if you make it happen.”
So how do Moroccan youth make change happen? They get involved.