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.
Thanks to your generous support, the training center has engaged over 300 students and civil society organizers in trainings and workshops this past quarter!
Results have shown that the capcity building program is making a significant contribution to improving local democracy, accountibility, and inclusiveness. This project is enabling the local population and their organizations to cooperate and coordinate in development management and good governance. These positive outcomes were reflected by improved advocacy on public and private service providers, improved application of checks and balances towards their elected representatives, as well as more efficient and successful implementaiton of community activities and projects.
10 CSO-government partnerships have been created as a result of this project, enabling the students and local community members to address key social and economic issues, including in new project areas related to monitoring road accidents in zones surrounding primary schools and improving farming practices in the near-by rural areas.
The community members engaged with this training project have donated over 3000 hours of their time to volunteer and participate in community action planning and the implementation of development projects in their neighborhoods. We are so grateful for their dedication!
Your donations allow additional students and civil society organizers to benefit from this capacity building program and workshop sessions held by the High Atlas Foundation. Thank you for your contribution to this cause - empowering Morocco's youth will create sustainable solutions to Morocco's development challenges for a better future.
The High Atlas Foundation believes that experiential training is key in effective capacity-building. At the Center for Community Consensus and Sustainable Development, the HAF team builds knowledge of sustainable development through applied activities. As an integral part of the Hassan II University, the Center provides ongoing workshops to transfer skills in effective development management, project implementation and technical maintenance, and fundraising.
HAF volunteer Zaynab spent time with students, CSOs and officials trained at Hassan II University and learned about the method of participatory development that HAF and its generous supporter promote: development through empowerment: Ownership and control of the development process rests in the hands of beneficiaries who are capable and willing.
Zaynab reflected on her time spent with the HAF team and project participants:
"A month ago, participatory development was the title of a chapter in my development textbook, the name of a series of lectures I had attended at university, or the topic of an essay I had written; just theory. Nonetheless, it was a theory that I had been told worked. It is said that ‘seeing is believing’ and after a month of interning with the Center for Community Consensus-Building and Sustainable Development, I am convinced not only of the fact that participatory development works, but that it promotes true sustainable development: the ultimate goal of any development initiative."
Thanks to the generous support from our volunteers and donors, HAF is able to increase the scope and impact of our community-initiated projects. On behalf of the HAF team and the many students, CSOs and officials who benefit from this training program, thank you for your contribution.
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