Dar Si Hmad for Development, Education and Culture is an independent nonprofit organization founded in 2010 promoting local culture and sustainable initiatives through education and the integration of scientific ingenuity in Southwest Morocco. We operate North Africa's largest fog harvesting project, providing villages with access to potable water. Our Water School and Girls' E-Learning Programs build capacity in the Anti-Atlas Mountains. Through our Ethnographic Field School, researchers and students engage with local communities in Agadir, Sidi Ifni, and the rural Aït Baamrane region for meaningful cross-cultural exchange.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Women RISE to economic and leadership opportunities

A few weeks ago, Dar Si Hmad kicked off their 2015-2016 RISE Program. Dar Si Hmad’s RISE Program is a one-year professional development initiative for university students and young professionals aged 19-25. The Program builds from Dar Si Hmad’s previous workforce development speaker series and professional development workshops to provide young Moroccans with the professional competencies to enhance their employability and entrepreneurship potential.

Tuesday 10 November 2015, fifty-eight young people from Agadir in southwest Morocco gathered at Dar Si Hmad to launch the 2015-2016 RISE Program, part of a new project on “Engaging the Next Generation: Unlocking Employability Potential among Agadir Youth”. Integration Day brought together students from around the city to get to know each other, celebrate their acceptance into the highly competitive program, and learn more about the skills they will gain over the next seven months.

RISE participants are university students who, given extant realities, currently have low employment prospects. More than 49% of Moroccan youth are either unemployed or no longer at school, and university students and recent graduates have an even higher rate of unemployment than those without a degree. Previous participants in Dar Si Hmad’s professional development initiatives have expressed frustration at overcrowded classrooms and the lack of practical training. There is little job security available and young people generally only have access to low-paying, exploitative entry-level jobs with few chances for advancement.

Many of the RISE finalists are young women. Morocco is making strides toward greater gender equality, but young women continue to face substantial career barriers and challenges. Investing in young women is a powerful way to break the vicious cycles of gendered inequalities that perpetuate violence against women. Dar Si Hmad’s RISE program builds young women’s potential alongside young men’s, ensuring that all of Morocco’s young people have brighter futures. Training together, men and women benefit from each other’s skills and learn to value everyone’s contributions.

RISE’s curriculum includes a variety of personal and professional skills and topics. Recognizing that some of the issues covered may be sensitive, RISE will run parallel workshops for male and female participants when necessary. The program seeks to ensure that both genders have the space to express their ideas while regularly challenging negative assumptions about women’s capabilities and encouraging young people to learn from each other’s experiences. Explicitly tackling the gendered challenges that both men and women face in the workplace is a necessary step in achieving gender parity.

Nadia Kamra, a RISE participant

Meet Nadia Kamra, a twenty-four-year-old who grew up in Oulataima and is now studying at Ibn Zohr University. Nadia applied to RISE after having incredible experiences working with PeaceCorps volunteers on their community development projects. Nadia hopes RISE can “help me develop my personal and professional skills and help me continue finding other great opportunities”.

After graduating from university, Nadia hopes to do an exchange program in the United States. Yesterday’s post on
#ViolenceAgainstWomen highlighted Dar Si Hmad’s Ethnographic Field School and its role in breaking down stereotypes and the violence of racism. The Ethnographic Field School brings students and researchers from Europe and America to southwest Morocco, broadening their horizons and challenging their perspectives. Programs like RISE help young Moroccans to do the same in reverse.

RISE’s curriculum includes sessions on writing personal statements and applications for initiatives like Global UGRAD. This attention improves the competitiveness of Moroccan youth for international exchange programs and ensures that the cross-cultural relationships fostered by Dar Si Hmad’s Ethnographic Field School go both ways.

One day after a RISE program, we asked Nadia what she learned from the session. “My favorite part of today was realizing my strengths and weaknesses when working in a group.  In one of the games, I realized I was good at looking at the big picture, but I tended to jump into things without a plan, and I wasn’t so good at paying attention to the details and figuring out how to get to that big picture.  Through the group activity, I discovered more about my personality, and I learned how everyone has different strengths that can be combined in a team to get the job done.

Youth development programs are vital to helping young people like Nadia build their skills and realize their potential. Long-term, Nadia is hoping to work for a non-profit organization. It is young women like her who will actively shape Morocco’s future. We know they will RISE to the challenge of improving their lives and building their communities.

This post is part of Dar Si Hmad’s 2015 #16Days Campaign to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

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