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MS expands programme in the MENA region
MS' activities in the Middle East have expanded after having received new funding. In cooperation with our partners, MS MENA is among other things focusing on strengthening young people's possibilities to get influence in one of the poorest areas of Jordan.By Niels-Peter Granzow Busch, MS MENA, Jordan
20. July 2009
Theatre performances created by young refugees, sports for schoolchildren and establishment of a place for youth to play music. Since MS MENA in January was granted new funds from The Arabian Initiative, the MS regional office for the Middle East and North Africa has been busy.
In recent years the number of young people in Middle East and North Africa has increased drastically. In Palestine nearly 50 pct of the population are younger than 15 years, while in Jordan a staggering 74 pct of the population are below the age of 30.
Young people have no influence
In spite of their numbers, youth in the MENA region has almost no influence on their everyday life. The reason is that the older generations traditionally have always been the ones making decisions on behalf of the youth. As a consequence many young people in the region feel powerless and alienated from their own community.
Therefore, the MS MENA program focuses on cross cultural dialogue between Danish and MENA youth, and on strengthening the youth in the MENA region to make them able to participate actively in their local communities and in democratic reform processes.
Area-based approach in Jordan and Lebanon
MS been working in the MENA region for a number of years. But now the regional program has been expanded with new and far more ambitious goals. The new program is still in it's first phase, and MS MENA has chosen to focus on two specific geographical areas in Jordan and Lebanon: Zarqa and Bekaa.
The experiences from these two areas will then be used to expand the program to other areas of the Middle East and North Africa – first of all Palestine and Syria.
MS MENA has entered into partnerships with a long range of local and Danish CSOs and NGOs in order to carry out our projects.
All projects are aimed at cross cultural exchange and at giving youth the tools necessary to be able to participate actively in the development of local democracy.
Focus on one of the poorest areas of Jordan
One of the poorest areas in Jordan, Zarqa, has been chosen as the first target for the MS programme. The Zarqa governorate is situated aprproximately 30 km north-east of the capital Amman and contains four of the twenty poverty pockets identified in Jordan. More than 850.000 people live in the governorate, which is the most densely populated area in the whole country.
Approximately 50 percent of the inhabitants are Palestinian refugees of whom some 18.000 people are still living in the refugee camp, which was established in Zarqa in 1948. A large number of Iraqis also inhabit Zarqa after having fled to Jordan after the American led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Mobilizing youth with sports and theatre
In cooperation with the Danish organization “Global Education through Sports” (GES) and local partners in Jordan, MS is presently starting up a sports project for young people in the Zarqa governorate.
The aim is to educate PE teachers in a number of Zarqa's schools in how to use sports as a learning tool for youth. Through the activities the young people learn how do deal constructively with the problems and issues they face in everyday life.
Another project, which MS has been facilitating in cooperation with “Danish Centre for Culture and Development”, the Danish “Betty Nansen Theatre” and a Jordanian partner organization, aims at getting young people to perform their own stories on a stage and thereby give them the ability to express their wishes and needs.
In the future, MS will launch a series of similar projects in zarqa in cooperation with local and Danish partner organizations.
En route to Lebanon
The other MS focus area in the region is the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. The area is probably best known for being a stronghold of the Shia Muslim militia, Hezbollah. But the fertile valley is also the centre of Lebanon's agricultural production.
The Bekaa Valley is home for approximately 750.000 people and is characterized by a multitude of different religious and ethnic groups. The Bekaa governorate is also struggling with widespread poverty caused by wars and the general, political instability of Lebanon.
The first three Lebanese partner organizations have already been found, and in the coming months, MS will focus on organizing youth projects in Bekaa similar to the ones being organized in Zarqa.
Like in Jordan, MS is focusing on engaging the young people in Bekaa in their local communities and on giving them the tools to become active in the fragile, Lebanese democracy.
Exchange and cross cultural dialogue
In the beginning of August, MS is sending a Jordanian and a Lebanese volunteer to Denmark as a part of the cross cultural component of the program. In Denmark they will participate in MS' climate conference for youth, since Copenhagen will host the United Nations framework Convention on Climate Change (COP15) in December 2009.
Also in December, the MS “Next Stop” event begins. The project involves approximately 50 young Danes, who will visit Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine to gain insight on how and under which conditions the peoples of the Middle East live, and also to enter dialogue with other young people in the region.
Apart from these two cross cultural projects, MS MENA continuously hosts three Danish interns at the regional office in Amman. A number of young Danish volunteers also work in the region as assistant school teachers and similar professions.
MS MENA moves in with ActionAid Australia
As a consequence of ”Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke” (MS) going to affiliate with ActionAid International, MS in the Middle East and North Africa will join forces with ActionAid Australia, which has primarily been working in Palestine. The Australian sister organization now also opens an office in Jordan.
Therefore, MS is currently working on locating a new regional office, which can host both organizations and at the same time function as a residence for the three interns, continuously living in Jordan.
ActionAid Australia has primarily been focusing on vulnerable groups in the Palestinian society and on civic education. It is the plan that MS in the future will cooperate with our Australian colleagues on civic education of youth in the region.
MS MENA's partners include:
Danish partners in Jordan:
Danish Center for Culture and Development (DCCD): Theatre project in Zarqa.
C:NTACT (the Betty Nansen Theatre): Theatre project in Zarqa.
The Danish Youth Council (DUF): Ambassadors of Dialogue project.
Global Education through Sports (GES): Sports peoject for youth
Local partners in Jordan:
Bushra Centre: Mobilization of youth in Zarqa, especially young women.
Al Thoraya Centre: Civic education of youth.
Community Development Committee (CDC): Theatre project i Zarqa refugee camp.
ActionAid Australia: Civic education.
Local partners in Lebanon:
Democratic Women's Assembly: Future partner in Bekaa
Democratic Youth Union: Future partner in Bekaa
Civil Society movement: Future partner in Bekaa