NET-MED Youth Lebanon at the Mediterranean Youth Encounter
More than 70 young people speaking more than 7 languages, from more than 15 countries of both the Mediterranean shores, gathered in one place, Casablanca-Morocco, for the same purposes: to share experiences in social work, to enrich, strengthen and develop their abilities, and to find solutions to the obstacles each of them faces in their country.
We were 4 from NET-MED Youth Lebanon: Samar Boulos (Safadi Foundation), Nagham Tarhini (Adyan Foundation), Fatima Hallal (Loyac Foundation) and myself, Laetitia El Haddad (UNESCO, SDGs Youth Radio Program). We had the chance to participate in this three-day meeting which was organized by the REF (Réseau Euromed France – French Euromed Network) in partnership with the Réseau Euromed Marocain des ONG (Moroccan Euromed NGO Network) and ONORIENT foundation, on 3-5 April 2017.
It is somewhat strange that I had to go to Morocco to get to know amazing Lebanese social activists such as my three colleagues; however I am still very glad it happened. I also met most of the other inspiring participants, each bringing their own touch to the event, colored by their unique enriching national identity. Sharing Moroccan meals and fruitful conversations each time with a different group of them made me feel as if I were traveling to one region of the Mediterranean shore at a time, while remaining in my place.
Thankfully, 3 main languages were adopted, making it much easier for the communication between participants. Although our nationalities, our customs and perhaps the situations in our countries were different, we found so many elements in common, so many issues that we seemed to agree on, especially regarding the four main themes discussed during the encounter:
It is true that a three-day meeting might seem long for some, yet for us, those three days weren’t enough. After the opening ceremony on the first day, four afternoon workshops were offered for us to choose from. Fatima Hallal had a brief intervention in the workshop titled “Combining access to employment and social utility”.
“Youth today are more connected than ever, we have access to infinite amount of data and vast potentials that have yet to be invested in and to be taken into consideration,” said Fatima. “It is unacceptable today for any system to marginalize youth from the policy making process neither it is acceptable to underestimate their potentials. The educational systems, the mobility policies have yet to be changed to adapt with needs and aspirations of our generation.”
Nagham Tarhini also had an intervention in the workshop titled “Youth civic engagement in the Mediterranean: how to participate in public life?”, where she shared some of her experience as an active person on the civic, public and social levels, giving the participants tangible examples inspired from the situations she encounters on a daily basis.
On the second day, we had four more workshops. I had the chance to animate the workshop “Participation in the media or reinvention of the media?”, where we identified the obstacles youth are facing on both shores of the Mediterranean that are hindering their participation in the media. We went on to think together of solutions that can be applied in order to strengthen the youth’s active presence in this field, such as offering professional training to develop their journalistic skills and facilitating their integration in the media corporations.
Field visits were also included in the program, giving us an overview on important local society organizations and on how they manage to help the young Moroccan society fight delinquency through education, arts and awareness campaigns. On the third day, a public debate took place, where the results of our work during the workshops were discussed, and where also a few participants gave an overview on the situation of youth in their country. Speaking about Lebanon, Samar Boulos reflected the current situation of Lebanese youth who are facing social and economic integration challenges, as well as a huge unemployment crisis, where 66% of the youth are currently unable to find jobs. However, Samar didn’t forget to shed the light on the positive and promising elements that are also present, such as the youth policy our government has signed, and UNESCO’s NET-MED Youth project.
The debate was followed by a closing ceremony and the distribution of participation certificates; however, what we gained from this experience was obviously much more than a certificate. Seeing that there are other youth facing the same struggles and challenges as we are, from different countries no matter how developed or different they are, and working to achieve the same youth-benefitting purposes in society, encouraged us to carry on with our missions in order to reach our goals, with more inspiration, innovative ideas, and determination than ever.
Thank you UNESCO, NET-MED Youth, European Union, Réseau Euromed France and Onorient.
Next stop, Algeria in 2018! #YouthPower
Activities building skills among youth organizations and young journalists; to enhance youth representation in media and promote freedom of expression, media and information literacy and youth-generated media content.
Activities joining youth organizations, employment experts and different national stakeholders to engage in dialogue and work together on unemployment solutions and skills needs.
Activities empowering youth to participate in the communal and national development, revision and implementation of national youth strategies and public policies.