|© UNICEF Morocco/2010/Khibach|
|To earn a place on Morocco's first Municipal Council of Children and Youth, in Ouarzazate Province, each candidate was required to present and defend his or her programme in front of young voters.|
By Aniss Maghri
OUISSELSATE, Morocco, 8 December 2010 – Morocco recently launched its first Municipal Council of Children and Youth in the rural community of Ouisselsate, located in Ouarzazate Province. It is the first of five such councils that will be launched under the framework of a UNICEF-supported ‘Child-Friendly Cities’ initiative to protect and promote child rights in the country.
More than 3,000 young voters elected 10 female and 16 male candidates to the Ouisselsate council from a field of 76 candidates. The council members range from 8 to 22 years of age.
Each candidate came to the election with a programme that he or she had to present and defend before the voters. Among them was Hayat, 19, whose programme included creation of a library, more scholarships for junior high and high school students, and construction of sport facilities. Another candidate, Hafsa, 12, put forward a proposal to fight illiteracy and promote girls’ participation in the community.
Serious, animated debate
His Excellency Abdessalam Bikrat, Governor of Ouarzazate, welcomed this exercise in participatory democracy. He called it “a first in Morocco … to involve children and young people in running local affairs.”
|© UNICEF Morocco/2010/Khibach|
|"If we were elected by children and youth in our community, it is precisely to defend their rights," says a member of Morocco's first Municipal Council of Children and Youth.|
A few days after the election, the council members held their first session. On the agenda was the establishment of operating and coordination mechanisms with the municipality of Ouisselsate. Various development actors from the area were present, and the young people engaged in a serious, animated debate. They voiced sincere opinions, taking into consideration the many challenges that lie ahead.
“If we were elected by children and youth in our community, it is precisely to defend their rights,” said one council member. “We have a responsibility to honour that commitment, and we will do everything to be worthy of the confidence of our constituents.”
Five focus areas
After the debate, the council members adopted several recommendations, including a request to the municipality to provide them with a workspace and funding for the implementation of youth-orientated projects.
The council also identified five focus areas for its work: quality of education; improvement of health at the municipal level; environmental protection; vocational training for greater employability; and development of recreational, cultural and sports activities.
In addition, the council called for extending this initiative to other municipalities, and for the allocation of observer seats for local council members at Morocco’s Children's Parliament.
The Municipal Council of Children and Youth in Ouisselsate grew from the Child-Friendly Cities pilot project launched last year in connection with the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The project aims to involve villages, towns and cities in the implementation of the Convention in the management of local affairs. It is supported by UNICEF, the General Direction of Local Government (Ministry of Interior), the Ministry of Youth and Sports, and UNFPA, with funding from – among others – Sida Sweden.
Ouisselsate is one of five pilot municipalities that joined the project by signing a commitment charter 20 November 2009 during a ceremony chaired by Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Meryem, President of the National Observatory of Children Rights.
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