Morocco Provides Safe Spaces for Youth
Julia Payne -Marrakech–As a society, we have hopes and dreams for the future; for our children, our countries, and the global community. These aspirations rest on the shoulders of the youngest generation. August 12, 2018 marks the 18th celebration of the U.N.’s annual International Youth Day. This awareness day is an unique opportunity to reflect on youth’s challenges and to celebrate and support the world’s future leaders. This year’s theme, “Safe Spaces for Youth,” marks the importance of youth’s engagement, participation, and freedom of thought.
Moroccan youth serve as an interesting case study to consider for this year’s Youth Day. The difficulties they confront are fairly representative of those that youth encounter globally. The U.N. 2016 World Youth Report outlines several issues that affect youth, such as high unemployment rates: youth are three times more likely than older adults to be unemployed. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is particularly impacted by youth unemployment, rising from 29.7 to 30.5 (2012 to 2014) in North Africa. Morocco falls slightly below this average at 19.9 percent unemployment for people aged 15-24, affecting men slightly more than women. However, the youth unemployment rate still lies far above the national average (9.3 percent). Like many countries in the MENA region, nearly half the population is under the age of 30. Problems that affect youth should be of the highest priority, otherwise countries risk suffering economically and developmentally.
Unfortunately, on a worldwide level, economic barriers are often coupled with high political disillusionment and low traditional political participation. Voter turnout is low among young people worldwide; lowest in Africa and the United States. In Morocco, in the recent 2016 parliament election, voter turnout was 43 percent, remarkably low among urban and educated youth. Much of the pessimism youth experience stems from feeling that governments do not represent them and voting would not resolve this dilemma. One Moroccan youth said he had cast a blank vote considering it a message to the government. Another girl, still in high school, said she will not vote when she is older because she feels voting is not worthwhile.
When talking with two young Moroccan students, they cited pressing issues for youth as the difficulty to find jobs and the inability to freely express themselves, loosely confirming the National Democratic Institute’s findings in Youth Perceptions in Morocco: Political Parties and Reforms which reported youth’s priorities in Morocco as reforming the education system, addressing unemployment, and curbing corruption.