Field Train Students, CSOs & Officials in Morocco

by High Atlas Foundation
Vetted

The High Atlas Foundation presses on in its endeavors to implement and support sustainable human development in communities in Mohamedia and Boujdour. As a Foundation, we believe wholeheartedly in the participation of local communities and neighborhoods in identifying, planning, and implementing the socio-economic and environmental projects they need the most. We believe that the enormous potential of Morocco and its people is something worth investing in and nurturing. The High Atlas Foundation sees tremendous opportunity for Morocco to lead and guide the region through community democratic or bottom-up development. However, there are internal challenges in Morocco that lie at the catalyst of its future, such as rural poverty, youth despondency, economic disparity, and exploited labor. 

 

With this in mind, the Legal Aid Program (LAP) in partnership with the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), has been extended to include communities in Western Moroccan Sahara, specifically in Boujdour. In Boujdour, HAF transitions activities to the local context and focuses on training Civil Society Organization Members in the participatory approach to democracy. There is a pressing need to address regional challenges in this area, including challenges involving migration, the environment, and security. The High Atlas Foundation, in coordination with our partners, has extended to Boujdour because we believe maintaining the status quo in the region is not in the interests of anyone involved in the epicenter of this issue. 

 

Communities know what they need and want; it is a matter of them meeting and planning as well as the dedication of financing the initiatives they together determine. This Program trains CSOs (civil society organizers) to help identify needs, barriers, and opportunities for their achievement. In Boujdour so far, the team has conducted 7 meetings with officials from the municipality, the governor’s office, the provincial department of agriculture, and the department in charge of the national initiative for human development. These meetings introduced and shared project documents and secured necessary authorizations to launch the initial meetings with 47 CSOs. The continuation of  the collection of base line data will assist in the realization of potential projects through identifying existing knowledge and skills.

 

In Mohamedia this past quarter, 243 CSO activists and university students (75 women and 168 men) participated in weekly training workshops and roundtable discussions covering participatory planning and development, specifically highlighting logical frameworks, budgeting, monitoring and evaluation, and reporting. Subsequent interviews have showed that of the 243 participants, 85% expressed positive changes in the realm of civic activities through taking tangible initiatives in their communities. Interviews also showed positive change in behavioral intentions regarding upcoming elections, both in terms of their attentiveness to reforms and their intentions to vote.

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Training Sessions in Mohamedia
Training Sessions in Mohamedia

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:

  1. 13 CSOs developed and implemented effective advocacy strategies related to improving elementary education for slum communities.
  2. Seven CSOs presented and discussed project proposals during meetings with provincial INDH committees. Among them, five CSO’s secured funding for community identified projects to benefit over 300 community members.
  3. 12 CSOs coordinated advocacy efforts to influence the national debate on the revised criminal laws.

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.

Training Sessions in Mohamedia
Training Sessions in Mohamedia

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:

  1. To equip the participants with the ability to identify barriers to advancing their change and development goals
  2. To conceptualize positive change
  3. To present participatory tools to help analyze economic, environmental, political, and social conditions and opportunities.

106 CSO activists, communal leaders and students attended three workshops held during the quarter.

  • The first workshop was dedicated to the presentation of the Legal Aid Program, its goal and objectives and to assessing the level of knowledge and expectations of the participants regarding legal services.
  • The second workshop was titled “Techniques and Tools to Identify the Challenges and Obstacles to Realize Change and Concretize Local Development Initiatives”. The workshop included a discussion of the concept of change management and the treatment of modifications of laws to which associations aspire. It also taught techniques to identify obstacles that prevent associations from concretizing their initiatives.
  • The third workshop was related to the association’s self-assessment. The participants learned the concept, importance and types of self-assessment, and gained the skills to conduct the process of self-assessment and as a result to determine the strengths and the functional areas that require support.
NED Workshop
NED Workshop

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.

Consensus Building and Sustainable Development
Consensus Building and Sustainable Development

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 the commune of Beni Yekhlef, 40 CSOs activists contributed to the planning and implementation of the spring festival. The weeklong festival included capacity building sessions, art, music, environmental education and awareness activities, community cleanup and tree planting.
  • In the commune of Ain Harrouda a CSO was able to secure funding to start a women’s cooperative for house cleaning services. The cooperative currently employs 15 women and two men.
  • Three CSOs from the same commune were able to secure funding to install a sewage system in two neighborhoods. The construction work is underway and will benefit 120 families in the near future.
  • The coalition of CSOs in Mohammedia was able to secure funding to organize and recruit youth for the summer youth camps program, which targeted 2500 youth from marginalized communities.
  • To celebrate Earth Day, two environmental education and awareness campaigns were implemented by CSO activists. The programs involved 180 students of local elementary schools who were able to plant 90 trees within the compound of their schools.
  • In the commune of Ain Harrouda, 15 activists from local CSOs organized workshops for 350 high school students on role and responsibilities of Moroccan citizens, with the aim to prepare young people for their roles as active citizens in society. The young students were able to voice their opinions about several social issues.

In this quarter, 156 activists, students and community leaders took several initiatives to influence local decision makers on a number of social issues.

  • 48 CSOs have been actively involved in advocacy efforts to influence the decisions of policy makers in the areas of urban planning, improving conditions for workers in the informal sector, improving public health and services provided by the local hospitals, integrated services and care for children with Down syndrome.
  • 30 CSOs activists in the commune of Ain Harrouda have joined efforts to work on the issue of corporate social responsibility and changing the behavior of business and local Government. They want these actors to work together and take responsibility in making the environment conducive for corporate social responsibility. The activists organized a conference attended by 96 participants representing different sectors and contributed to developing a petition on the subject with 2000 signatures.
  • Activists and community leaders from 48 CSOs participated to a conference organized by HAF, during which, participants from the public, private and non-profit sectors had a great opportunity to share and discuss innovative models and partnerships that promote mutual benefits. As a result, 11 CSO-government partnerships were created to address key identified social and economic challenges, including lack of vocational training for women and girls, sanitation and youth development.
  • 12 CSOs from the communes of Mohammedia, Ain Harrouda and Beni Yekhlef have joined efforts to develop a strategy to advocate for improved policy and governance, investment promotion and marketing and networking to improve flows of information to enhance opportunities in the city of Mohammedia. Activists from these CSOs held meetings with private investors and government representatives to review challenges and opportunities to improving the local business environment. As a result, the CSOs representatives were invited to join a provincial committee to research new mechanisms to increase CSOs involvement in the provision and maintenance of infrastructure and ways it could boost local economies, particularly the initiative for targeting the poor.
  • As the communal elections are officially announced for the summer of 2015, elected officials and CSO activists from the communes of Mohammedia, Ain Harrouda and Beni Yekhlef held a series of consultancy meetings with citizens. The meetings process was a real opportunity for 275 citizens to voice their concerns and opinion and engage in different debates on topics related to governance and transparency.
  • Activists from 13 CSOs representing citizens with disabilities reviewed a newly issued policy by the government related to protecting the rights of people with disabilities, and decided to join the national coalition for the advancement of the rights of persons with disabilities (135 CSOs) in their efforts to bloc this policy at the parliament, including participating in a peaceful demonstration by the parliament building.

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.

 

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Organization Information

High Atlas Foundation

Location: New York, NY - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.highatlasfoundation.org
Project Leader:
Mouhssine Tadlaoui-Cherki
Director, Centre pour le Consensus Communautaire et le Developpement, Mohammedia, MAROC Durable
NYC, NY (US) and Marrakech, Al Haouz (Maroc), Morocco
$1,408 raised of $25,000 goal
 
11 donations
$23,592 to go
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