ActionAid Denmark (AADK) supports youth engagement and youth participation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). In cooperation with local partners the programme ‘Building Bridges for Youth Action’ creates possibilities for young men and womento become active drivers of sustainable change and stability in their societies.
Young women and men between the age of 15 and 24 constitute one third of the population in MENA; young people owning the potential of doing things differently, move in new directions and work to overcome the challenges facing the region today. There are barriers to pass through, for this to happen. A patriarchal society, limited access to the decision-making system and a top-down learning environment promote passivity and maintain traditional gender roles. The aim for ActionAid Denmark is to create possibilities for young people to become active and critical participants in society.
The countries in MENAface substantial social, political and human rights challenges. The region is marked by a lack of community participation and involvement of marginalized groups in local decision-making and a lack of accountability among local and national decision-makers. People in several countries live under conflict or under occupation and a large number of people are refugees living in deep poverty. ActionAid Denmark works in marginalized and poor areas to create possibilities for young people to put their own initiatives and dreams into action.
The year 2011 seems to have marked a turning point in the political development in the Middle East and North Africa. In what is now termed the Arab Spring, large numbers of people across the Arab World has taken to the streets demanding political reforms and more influence in decision-making processes. Young women and men have played a central role in the recent movements wishing to see a different future. The Arab Spring has begun to change the self-perception of youth who start to see themselves as active political agents.
Women’s role in MENA
Despite considerable differences between countries, social classes and religions, nowhere in the region do women hold the same rights and opportunities as men. Stereotypical gender roles and religious and social conservatism, strongly limit and restrict women’s agency and participation in all spheres of society. ActionAid Denmark has developed a specific gender strategy for the MENA region. The strategy underlines the importance of focusing on women’s rights and participation in the public life and promotes individual empowerment of young women.