Delegates from all over the world are putting in final preparations ahead of the World Conference On Youth, hosted by Sri Lanka. The main theme of the Conference is ‘Mainstreaming Youth in the Post 2015 Development Agenda’.
From North Africa, representation at the Conference has already been determined. Sana Afouaiz is one of the International Delegates from Morocco. She is the Regional Coordinator of the Moroccan Youth Climate Movement and the Project Manager of Advocacy Learning, which uses innovative service-learning to promote competence in advocacy and provide access to tools for self-development and challenge social oppression. Linguere caught up with Sana for a brief chat, ahead of the gathering In Colombo.
Linguere: Congratulations on being selected to represent Morocco at WCY 2014. Out of the many applications, yours was successful and I believe it’s because of a proven record of hard work in relation to the theme of the conference. Can you share a brief background of the work you do?
Sana:Thank you!I’m a journalist working with the Voice of Women Initiative to promote gender equality and oppose the perpetuation of gender discrimination. I use innovative approaches by encouraging women to tell their stories through the media, as a way to stop violence and inequality.
I’m also a government visitor in the Middle East Partnership Initiative program. Through this program, I explored diverse issues around leadership and civic engagement in United States. As a member of the steering committee of the Moroccan Center for Civic Education, I help to encourage volunteering, spread democratic principles and engage others to become effective in their communities.
I represented Morocco in the Regional Model Arab League Stimulation held in Tunisia. There, we debated about policy-relevant issues among the government institutions, civil society, and citizens in the Arab world.
I currently work as a volunteer assistant with Injaz Al Maghreb too, contributing to the emergence of a new generation of entrepreneurs. I also execute duties as a member of the national steering committee of United Nations UNV Youth Volunteering in Arab States.
Linguere:The Conference will gather over 1500 participants from all over the world, representing different organisations and groups. How prepared are you for the deliberations?
Sana: I’ll be attending the Conference as a representative of the Voice of Women Initiative (VOW). We are currently working together to produce a document on the recommendations for youth in our communities, which is the aim of the World Conference on Youth. I have great connections within youth organizations from different parts of the world. This has helped me in gathering the needed information to amplify their voices, share their opinions and demands. We plan to share these at WCY 2014 and look forward to seeing our voices represented in the Post 2015 Development Agenda.
Since VOW focuses on women’s issues, I’ve already written a document with important recommendations which I will present in Sri Lanka. These include the situation and status of women in the political, economic, and social spheres.
Linguere: Which key foundations and thematic areas will you focus on at WCY 2014?
Sana: Taking into consideration my background and the organisation I’ll be representing, my focus will be on two main Foundations: Gender Equality and Inclusive Youth Participation at All Levels.
For the themes, I have Realizing Equal Access to Quality Education and Full Employment and Entrepreneurship.
Linguere: In addition to representing VOW at the Conference, you are also recognised as one of the Moroccan International Youth Delegates. Shifting attention to the national scale, how would you describe the current situation in Morocco, regarding youth participation in leadership and development?
Sana:I would say that in the past few years, Morocco has witnessed an increased participation and engagement of youth in the political and decision-making process, in civil society and other public affairs. For me, this confirms that young people in Morocco participate in the development of the country in different fields.
However, there is still room for improvement, especially in the area of representation in Parliament. Young people will be able to share their voices, inform and influence public policies if they are fairly represented at this level.
After the social movement in 2011, the country has seen a huge number of subsequent protests, demanding parliamentary monarchy and advocating political change. More young people have become more interested than ever in determining the policies of the country, to make a positive change. This expresses the leadership sense that Moroccans have, which they want to apply to develop their communities.
Linguere: Has there been any other remarkable improvement following the February 20th movement, influenced by the Arab Spring?
Sana:Unlike other countries in the Arab region, Morocco has faced both street activism led mainly by the February 20th movement and an institutional revolution led by youth wings of political parties and civil society organizations. This led to a political communications and advocacy campaign, putting pressure on state and political parties to establish a quota for youth representation in the parliament.
This political dialogue also led the new election code, voted by the parliament, creating an electoral list for women and another for youth. Now, we have 30 seats guaranteed for youth in our Parliament.
The new constitution also included several theoretical reforms regarding youth and civil society, with various articles promoting youth participation, the freedom to create civil society organizations, formulation of draft legislation, among others. The government also promised to open public debate with youth and civil society, facilitate the creation of the Consultative Council of Youth and Community Work and improve a national integrated youth strategy in the policy plans and supporting associations working in rural areas to guarantee transparency.
Linguere: The majority of young people in the world will not be at WCY 2014. How will you, as a delegate, ensure that details of the outcome document of the WCY are widely spread, especially among young people?
Sana:I intend to share the experiences, stories and advice gathered from WCY 2014 with other young people and experts. This will be done through social media and the organizations I work with, both at the national and international levels.
Furthermore, I will strengthen the inclusive youth participation in the decision-making processes, by inspiring them and enhancing their importance. This will be through sharing ideas, experiences and innovative approaches for effectively contributing to the post-2015 development agenda and its implementation.
I also intend to organize workshops for other youth to make them aware of their importance in the social, economic and political level when it comes to the decision of government officials. Those decisions should correspond to youth’s needs.
Linguere:Your expectations for the Conference?
Sana: I expect to use the platform to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, and also to discuss the situation of women beyond 2015. We need to consider the case of women’s right as a prerequisite for the health and development of families and societies, and a driver of economic growth.
I’ll further love to strengthen inclusive youth participation in the decision-making processes and in the addressing global issues. Youth are the lead; they are the concerned people, and it’s their right to get involved.
I look forward to sharing ideas, experiences and innovative approaches for effectively contributing to the post-2015 development agenda and its implementation, youth rights, and strengthened youth participation at all levels.
Linguere: Thank you for your time Sana. See you in Colombo
Sana: Thank you