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Youths from MENA share experiences in dealing with issues facing their communities

By Laila Azzeh - Sep 01,2015 - Last updated at Sep 02,2015

AMMAN — Oussama Ferchichi’s passion for civil change is influencing his brother to stay clean from drug use.

After being part of the Mosharaka (participation) initiative, the 22-year-old Tunisian has become equipped with the necessary tools to advocate for human and civil rights.

“Humans as individuals are what concern me and not ideologies…the training I received in Mosharaka allowed me to work on themes that I think present the main concerns in my country,” the psychology student told The Jordan Times on the sidelines of the Regional Youth Forum Mosharaka: Let’s Work Together, on Tuesday.

With the initiative focusing on young people in marginalised and underprivileged communities in five countries — Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Morocco — around 150 young people between the ages of 20 and 30 have been trained to tackle issues of concern to their respective regions.

Youth from Tunisia, for example, chose municipal elections, drug abuse and people with disabilities as the main causes to tackle.

“Drug addiction and occasional abuse of drugs are considered a phenomenon in parts of Tunisia. The law is not helping them get clean as they have to carry an ID after being released from prison that shows they used to be addicts,” Ferchichi said.

On the other hand, he noted that people with disabilities still face social stigmas that prevents their advancement, while young people are reluctant to practise their democratic right to vote.

“When I see my brother talking to his friends about what I do and how he is convinced with our projects, I realise that what I am doing is reaping tangible benefits,” noted Ferchichi.

“I know how addicts feel and I learned from my own experience how to deal with them without being judgmental,” he added.

In Jordan, Mosharaka engaged young people from east Amman and Madaba, who chose to work on illiteracy and sexual harassment, said Nadjet Bouda, of Canadian organisation Equitas, who noted that the forum is the last phase of Mosharaka.

The three-day forum brings together around 35 participants — youth leaders, civil society and representatives of funding organisations — to share “innovative strategies and good practices to promote youth leadership and participation in the protection and promotion of human rights and democracy” in the Middle East and North Africa, according to organisers.

Participants are highlighting benefits brought about by their projects, which they developed over the past three years, and offering their recommendations for better outcomes.

The forum is organised by Equitas in cooperation with the Amman-based Arab Network for Civic Education and partner organisations in the participating countries, with the support of the EU, the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives and the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie.

According to Equitas Executive Director Ian Hamilton, what makes Mosharaka a unique initiative is the participatory and human-rights approach it is based on.

“Youths should feel connected to their communities and be able to develop solutions to some of their challenges… if they feel excluded or that their ideas are not taken seriously, they will connect with other groups’ ideologies,” he told The Jordan Times.

The initiative is also concerned with young people’s overall economic situation; therefore, they receive training in skills useful for them to seek employment, according to Hamilton.

During the opening ceremony, government coordinator on human rights Basel Tarawneh highlighted the Kingdom’s efforts to change people’s mindsets towards human rights and laws enacted in this regard, such as the Access to Information Law.

 

Founded in Canada in 1967, Equitas — International Centre for Human Rights Education is a nonprofit organisation that works for the advancement of equality, social justice and respect for human dignity in Canada and around the world through human rights education programmes.

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