By Ghizlane Akourim
By Ghizlane Akourim
Rabat – I was taught that I should not question adults; they have got the experience that I do not.
I was taught that kids who bow their heads, listen all the time and obey their elders are polite.
I heard my family making plans for all their children to study a certain major, work in a specific job and marry at a certain age.
From my experience, I’ve learned that elders basically draw your future without taking in consideration what you want to do! Then, they complain about how you become lazy when time passes by. Well, haven’t they taught you to wait till you grow up, to give up on your crazy dreams and follow safe plans?
What about the youth’s true potential? What about the lives they want to live and the kind of person they want to be?
I have been underestimated thousands of times. I have had adults tell me that organizing a workshop is too much for me to handle, that I am not old enough to manage a big project. Some even told me not to spend my time doing those kind of things because they won’t make much of a difference anyway.
But you know what? I have reached a level where I do not care about what the society has planned for me; I do not care if I am viewed as a powerless individual; I do not care if I and others my age do not have enough opportunity to grow.
I promise those things won’t last forever! They [who?] should feel the ambition in those college students; they should feel the fire I have inside me. I believe in a bright future. We will build with our efforts and will not give up because we CAN make a difference, no matter how small it will be. We will work hard until we earn the respect our elders refused to give us every time we try to step forward.
It had to start somewhere, right?
Two years ago, I found an announcement about a workshop. The organization had no age restriction, so I updated my CV, wrote a letter of motivation for the first time and applied. Guess what? I got accepted! I invested my spring break to learn things that do not get taught at school. I discovered so much about human rights, freedom of expression and artistic expression.
Three months later, I was back to Racines as a volunteer working on projects that helped raise awareness in my community. Again, a sixteen-year-old worked with people having master degrees, PhD’s and years and years of experience, yet, my voice mattered to them!
After my internship at Racines, I flew to the United States. I was a youth ambassador for my country, Morocco. I spent ten months in a foreign country teaching people about my culture, giving cultural presentations, destroying stereotypes about Muslims, and doing more than 250 volunteer hours. All that in addition to my normal life of taking classes, improving my English, creating and organizing meetings and activities for my cultural club, Tiger Explorers, and being a part of the color guard and tennis teams.
I was peer tutoring third graders in an elementary school in the U.S. I was fascinated by how teachers and the whole school system treated their students, calling them young adults, addressing them as important people and giving them importance.
Once in high school, those students become sport managers, students counselors, volunteers, president of clubs and small organizations, and organize events for their school and community.
When you value the youth from a young age, you are building confident leaders, change makers and a stronger community!
One month ago, I found myself in the Swiss mountains with wonderful people starting my NOW journey.
I was one the youngest participants, but it did not matter to them. We worked and learned from each other the entire. Even if we were diverse in many ways, we were there for the same purpose: build a better world NOW!
I was empowered not only by facilitators, but also by other participants. I fell in love with this culture of sharing and multiplying knowledge and experiences between the youth.
When sharing becomes a passion:
I love my country, Morocco but I am saddened by the way adults underestimate young people, and the way society wants to control everything.
Not all of the youth are ignorant, not all of the youth are a source of problems and not all of the youth are negligent! There is no such thing as a right or wrong age to create positive growth. It is all about believing in yourself, your strengths and abilities, and doing what has to be done.
The youth care about what is going on; they are worried about the future, too. If you can’t empower them, then by all means just set them free. Let the youth go out there, fight for what they love and learn from life! You will be surprised by how their contributions can make an impact!
I want more youth to feel that they have the power to create a change. I want them to know how important they truly are, and how they are more than able of creating miracles to change the world. Their voices matter not just in the future, but in the present as well.
I decided to create “Youth Stepping Forward,” a program that empowers, motivates and inspires the youth to take action in their local communities and spread awareness about age discrimination. In YSF, we believe that the youth have the potential to make a change and that big achievements have no age.
Edited by Natalie Yazhary