A tragic event changed her perception of life.
It was almost three years ago when Zinab received that dreadful call on a Tuesday morning. One of her construction trainees had fallen off a service shaft, three stories onto solid ground.
Zinab called an ambulance and she rushed to the scene. She only had 45 minutes to help save the young man from internal bleeding in the brain that could be fatal. Some would say it was the adrenaline rush that made her react swiftly and effectively. But to her, it was more than just that. It was a wake-up call.
“He was only 17 years old with a whole life before him to build,” says Zinab. “The trainee had dropped out of school and had been wandering around the streets of difficult neighborhoods. At the training center, we offered him a chance to acquire a new skill so he can find a job and have a decent life.”
After a moment’s silence, Zinab continues “If I couldn’t save him from an accident that would break his life, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.”
At 30, Zinab is a pedagogical director at an apprenticeship training center in Rabat, Morocco. She knows all the youth there and has developed strong bonds with each and every one of them. The incident marked the real start of her civic engagement, she went from being a participant in different civil society activities to becoming a more focused and effective player and leader within MENA Policy Hub (MPH), a youth organization in Morocco that works on public policies, employment and other themes.
“After that incident, something inside of me got triggered… shaken. When you are on the ground, faced with everyday risks, you cannot be detached from reality. Everything around you feeds that internal strength and motivation to get up and make a change, no matter how small that change may be,” she says.
Passionate for the work she does with marginalized youth coming from disadvantaged backgrounds, Zinab is convinced more than ever before that changing things means being close to youth, listening to their views and problems, and working with them and social institutions so they can have access to training and safe work environments.
“I am constantly wearing my macro lens. Our vocational training in Morocco adopts a traditional approach that relies on an arsenal of technical documents but lacks the appropriate investment in and consideration for the human element,” explains Zinab. “Any training has to take into account the social situation and needs of youth. It should not be a unilateral, top-down approach, but a collaborative cycle.
For our youth to be integrated in the social fabric, employment and professional insertion are key. It’s good that we have cultural activities, sports and other entertainment opportunities these days; but professional stability is an essential pillar for us to have autonomous individuals and to ease transition into adult life.”
As the focal point of MPH within the public policy working group of NET-MED Youth in Morocco, Zinab focuses on the employment component of public policies. She coordinates between members of NET-MED Youth and members of MPH, contributes to the development of project proposals, and takes part in the meetings organized with employment experts as part of the activities of NET-MED Youth.
“Through NET-MED Youth, I am learning a lot,” she says. “The qualitative and economic employment data from the experts is of high quality and is very concrete. It also comes at an opportune time. This expertise will be very useful to civil society organizations, like mine, because it will give us a foundation to forecast what skills youth need to access the job market.”
With a voice full of passion and determination, she says “We are different civil society organizations in our NET-MED Youth working group, and this is a valuable aspect in its own. We work as a team, feed the project with ideas stemming from our varied backgrounds, and are very much immersed in the revision and implementation of public policies on the ground. It’s not just a matter of having a public policy or not, it is about ensuring that the target audience, youth, can participate in its development.”
And with that same tone of voice, Zinab goes on to stress the importance of being results-oriented, of finding that raison d’être to contribute to the advancement of society, and of providing support to youth to reinforce their capacities for the long-term.
“The impulse, enthusiasm, and energy of youth are not enough by themselves. We need to be committed to providing an environment where youth skills and capacities are developed and reinforced. Because without it, they may try, fail, and then give up. This work is a long-term undertaking. A challenge. But as youth members of civil society, our actions need to be oriented towards creating a positive and sustainable impact, or else they will soon fritter away.”
Zinab would never forget that dreadful day, the wailing of the ambulance siren and her shaking hands dialing the emergency number. The trainee is in good health today thanks to Zinab’s phone call. The ambulance arrived. His life was saved and he continues to work and improve his life.
Source: NET MED YOUTH