Blog by Gabriella Vogelaar(Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict) reflecting on Day 1 of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Youth consultation in Tunis, Tunisia, 13 – 15 March 2013.
Today I was at the first day of the MENA Youth Consultation / Regional Workshop in Tunis, Tunisia: a three-day workshop with youth from the Middle East region, with training on leadership skills and fostering positive social change. The countries represented are Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Lebanon, Yemen and Palestine. Participants are from a diverse mix of backgrounds, which makes it a very vibrant and lively atmosphere. There are 5 or 6 participants from different areas from each country, most of whom have never met their fellow nationals before. Some come from remote or less known areas, such as the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, or from (previously) marginalized communities such as the Amazigh in Libya. Today was about getting to know each other, and for the youth to tell their stories on what they are doing in their respective communities.
This included stimulating entrepreneurship amongst youth, mediation between local authorities and youth on crime issues, creating youth councils in small cities, journalism and reporting on social issues in the media, and environmental activism – just to name a few. Some of the youth say they feel empowered now that they are able to express their opinions freely, whereas before they were not. This is also reflected in their enthusiasm about the days to come.
The Tunisian group presentation, which combined a short drama performance with audiovisuals on the Tunisian revolution, conveyed a strong feeling and message - one of hope for the future of Tunisia after the revolution. In the pictures they are seen in traditional (head) dress from Tunisia.
Just as the energy levels in the room seemed to go down, the last session was closed with the traditional dabke dance by the Lebanese and Palestinians, which completely turned the energy levels up (see pictures).
It was great to see that some of the participants already felt they could apply some of today’s lessons to their work. I am looking forward to tomorrow’s session where the youth will give their own analysis of the main opportunities and challenges in their respective countries and how they believe they should move forward. For live updates, follow @NetworkforHS on Twitter.
The MENA Youth consultation is organized by Search for Common Ground and Cordaid.