Since March of 2015, the Legal Aid Program (LAP) has continued to achieve and exceed identified goals and objectives. Specifically, LAP has continued conducting weekly workshops, attended by the 46 CSO activists and 28 University Students. Additionally, the Advocacy Training Module was successfully completed and the team has started teaching the Communal Development Planning Training Module.
Fatna Sakni’s story is an example of one of the many benificiaries that has effectively implemented their training through LAP. Sakni, president of the Association Initiative and Citizenship, has been very successful in her advocacy efforts. Particularly in influencing the governor and Ain Harrouda community council decisions related to supporting and promoting small enterprises for women. Through her work with HAF, she was able to create a network of women’s groups interested in creating their own enterprises and cooperatives. Sakni took a leading role during meetings with the governor, the delegate of National Welfare and cooperatives and the elected community council. As a result, National Initiative for Human Development (INDH) funding was approved to create three cooperatives employing a gourd of 95 women.
Moreover, participating CSO’s have effectively established programs and secured competitive funding resources for their projects. Since the last report:
We see that participating CSOs are organizing themselves into two major coalitions and have started developing a proposed communal development plan. This plan will be submitted to the future elected community council. With the communal elections coming up in September of 2015, CSOs are also preparing an advocacy strategy to ensure a participatory process that may convey the main priorities of the upcoming communal development plan.
The Legal Aid Program (LAP) was created as a collaborative effort between the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) and the Hasan II University in Mohamedia. Since it’s inception in 2014, LAP has continued to assist CSO activists and marginalized populations gain the knowledge and skills to necessary to identify issues and design sustainable solutions through self-initiated development projects and active contribution to local and national policy reform process. The key objectives of LAP have been to increase democratic participation of Civil Service Organizations (CSO) in policy reforms, build CSO’s capacity to implement and monitor projects and promote good governance.
In the past quarter, the High Atlas Foundation’s team has launched Legal Aid Program (LAP) to support democratic participation of CSO leaders and activists in advocacy strategies and increase their role in creating change. This new program will also enable addressing structural impediments that were identified the previous rounds of training especially relating to land ownership and inclusive participation in creating Municipal Development Plans.
The quarter was dedicated to communication about the program and the mobilization of partners. Thus, we held several meetings with the relevant local authorities, directors of youth centers, and elected officials and communal leaders in the different communes of Mohammedia to present the program as well as explain goal and objectives.
Additionally, program staff identified and confirmed participants in the workshops and LAP: law students, civil society organization (CSO) members, activists and community leaders. The project team recruited CSO members for their commitment to advocate for policy change and reforms, their capacity to address local needs, and their desire to design and manage campaigns using a participatory approach. HAF’s team also recruited law students from the Faculty to benefit from the capacity building program and later to provide legal counsel, under professional supervision, to the CSO members involved in the workshops.
In order to measure the knowledge regarding legal framework for advocacy based on Morocco’s newly revised constitution and laws, and to understand local development issues, the team conducted a survey among the program beneficiaries. The survey gathered information on the organizations’ assessment of their current advocacy efforts and watchdog functions as well as current legal barriers, and their needs in terms of legal services.
To meet the outlined objectives and achieve the overall goal of advancing democracy through participation in sustainable development projects, the first quarter involved the implementation of six-month workshops preceding the legal service provisioning phase. The objective of these “Participatory Planning and Development Workshops” is threefold:
106 CSO activists, communal leaders and students attended three workshops held during the quarter.
In early 2011, amid large public demonstrations, regional political unrest, and dramatic changes in neighboring states, Morocco initiated a series of reforms to strengthen human rights, democracy, good governance, and economic transparency. The centerpiece was a revision of Morocco’s constitution. The new constitution aims to strengthen the legislature, and judiciary; to promote human rights, women’s equality, and Amazigh cultural rights; and to encourage decentralization.
Despite Morocco’s newly revised constitution and the Government’s commitment to policy reforms for democracy and sustainable development, the degree to which the new constitution represents a significant change depends on the details of constitutional implementation, the degree to which CSOs and political parties effectively leverage the political space and roles accorded to them, and whether they have the capacity and ability to effectively contribute to a genuine democracy.
Participatory research assessments conducted with 140 activists and leaders from 94 CSOs in two urban communes (Mohammedia and Ain Harrouda and four rural communes (Beni Yekhlef, Sidi Moussa Ben Ali, Sidi Moussa Lmajdoub and Chellalat) in the Mohammedia province (conducted in 2012 and 2013 by 130 university students with three members of HAF’s project team), highlight the areas in which there is a need to address the structural challenges, including:1) the lack of full participation in creating Communal Development Plans, 2) the absence of knowledge surrounding the legal framework to advocate for policy reforms, 3) lack of good governance practices within CSOs which is impacting their credibility with their constituents and partners, 4) the lack of capacity to develop effective advocacy strategies and attract funding and support.
The High Atlas Foundation will partner with the National Endowment for Democracy to meet the critical need for the provision of legal services for civil society organizations (CSOs) and marginalized communities and groups, particularly women and youth.
The project will create a sustainable legal aid program (LAP) at the Faculty of Law, Economic and Social Sciences (Faculty) at Hassan II University in Mohammedia, located between Rabat and Casablanca.The participants of a nine month experiential skills-building program will include: a) 20 CSO activists and communal leaders from the Province who will be equipped with legal knowledge, analytic skills, and capacity to plan and manage participatory advocacy strategies leading to legal and political reforms and b) 20 law students who will build their applied skills through providing (with professional supervision) legal counseling and assistance for CSO activists and communities from 6 communes in the Province of Mohammedia.
The project will be done in three phases. The first phase will be coordinating the program, preparing materials, and identifying students, CSO activists and community leaders. After completing phase one participatory planning workshops and legal services will be provided to the students invited to the workshops. The final phase will focus on the implementation of advocacy strategies to address challenges and issues identified over the course of the workshops and post project surveys will be conducted during this phase.
This past quarter, the HAF team invested significant effort and resources to train and provide guidance to 188 CSO activists and University students to design, plan and implement programs and activities that promote civic engagement among youth and women.
Three particular topical areas were targeted:
1- Assisting CSO leaders and activists to initiate income-generating projects aiming at improving the socio-economic status of youth and women and in the process impact their levels of civic participation. Among the beneficiaries were women and youth who are less educated, unemployed, and from rural communes, who are least civically engaged and whose voices are underrepresented in public debates and decisions.
2- Improving access to local CSOs to encourage youth and women to join and be civically engaged - through good governance, better communication and transparency within CSO structures.
3- Improving civic and political knowledge of targeted citizens.
The results showed that CSO leaders and activists are taking the lead in planning and implementing programs targeting new community groups. CSOs from five communities of Mohammedia were able to secure funding and technical assistance to implement projects included in their community development action plans.
In this quarter, 156 activists, students and community leaders took several initiatives to influence local decision makers on a number of social issues.
The program’s results show many concrete examples demonstrating the commitment and the improvement in civic participation of the trained community members. New CSOs are progressively created and community members are more and more engaged in associations, in the past quarter 73 new members have joined existing organizations and six new CSOs involving 70 citizens were created.
These examples show the program’s positive impact and encourage High Atlas Foundation with support from its partners and donors to continue and multiply efforts in training, assisting and supporting community members in Mohammedia.
The past quarter was impressively productive, as the project team successfully completed a total of 12 capacity building workshops, round table discussions and meetings involving 345 target citizens, CSO activists, and students from the different communes of Mohammedia.
These different meetings constituted opportunities to the targeted beneficiaries to learn about public issues and acquire skills, knowledge and practical experience of relevance to the role of functioning as a citizen. Therefore, significant improvement was noticed in the level of civic engagement, among target citizens, through their active participation in community meetings, community council monthly meetings, and the design and implementation of community initiatives and projects.
Using knowledge and skills gained through the capacity building workshops provided by HAF, CSO leaders continued to use different ways to identify and recruit stakeholders to participate in the planning and implementation of community development initiatives. 13 CSO-government partnerships were created to address key social and economic issues, including a project to integrate children with Down syndrome into the education system. As a result, a specific curriculum was developed in two public elementary schools to the benefit of 45 children. A third class will be opened in school year 2014-2015, which will be dedicated to professional training for a group of 12 teenagers with Down syndrome. The program will also include different activities and performances by these children to educate the public and officials about the needs of children and teenagers with Down syndrome.
Another funded project planned and implemented by CSOs from the rural communes of Beni Yekhlef and Sidi Moussa Ben Ali have been completed in partnership with the local department of agriculture. The project received funding and in-kind donations to train poor farmers in modem agriculture practices. 250 farmers benefited from capacity building workshops in the area of drip irrigation, converting to new crops with added value and the value of cooperatives.
The coalition of CSOs in the commune of Beni Yekhlef, reported a newly signed agreement with the local delegation of the Ministry of Public health and the local hospital. With the goal to create a mobile medical unit for poor and isolated communities, this partnership will benefit over 5000 people.
CSO leaders from the commune of Ain Harrouda reported three partnerships with the National Initiative of Human Development and were able to secure funding to help address the challenges faced by workers in the informal sector. 80 beneficiaries are currently actively participating in a capacity building program aiming at helping the workers adapt basic small business management techniques.
On the other hand, CSOs activists participated to different meetings with the local political officials as unique opportunities to influence the decision making process. In the commune of Ain Harrouda, 85 Citizens participated in a meeting with a group of 10 elected officials. The meeting aimed at reviewing and assessing the five years communal development plan and was a great opportunity for participating citizens to voice their ideas and concerns and to suggest ways to address pressing economic and social challenges. 75 citizens participated in round table discussions with public officials to develop a vision of an “ideal” city as an ambitious project to create a new city called Znata. Several challenges related to economic and social impacts of this new city were identified from this process.
35 CSO activists played a leading role in the review process of urban plans and distribution of social housing to poor families in the city of Mohammedia. The advocacy efforts of the CSOs and community citizens are showing tangible results, reflected by the ongoing participation to regular meetings with the city planners and local authorities to develop solutions to issues associated with dismantling shantytowns in the city of Mohammedia and providing subsidized housing to poor families.
As for our trained students, 27 students demonstrated improvement in their advocacy capacity. These students, who have worked on creating Student Advocate Body as a resource that provides academic support and advocacy for students at the Faculty of Juridical, economic and social Sciences in Mohammedia, has been working with International students from Sub-Saharan countries and the University administrators to improve conditions for better integrations of international students.
Thanks to the generous support of our donors to the program, our trainees are developing their skills day after day, are successfully implementing development actions and initiatives, and multiplying the impacts of the development programs for the local communities. Thank you for helping to the creation of brighter futures for the communities of Mohammedia.
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Director, Centre pour le Consensus Communautaire et le Developpement, Mohammedia, MAROC Durable
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