A celebration of a water system that is pumping water from the Jubba River and transporting it to a community without access. | Photo Credit: Abdullahi Malin

USAID Morocco Gives Two Young Climate Activists the Boost Needed to Excel

By YP2LE Communications

The timing of the recent order from King Mohammed VI to the Government of Morocco to increase the budget allocated to the National Program for Drinking Water Supply and Irrigation to $14 billion aligned perfectly with the first chance Oumnia Anfer, 20, and Houyame Hakmi, 23, had to finally sit down to reflect on their experience at the United Nations (UN) 2023 Water Conference.

For two young women who are dedicated to climate action and sustainable water policies, this new development is no small victory. Morocco has one of the lowest rates of water resources per capita, and, with droughts becoming more prevalent in a country economically dependent on agriculture and tourism, water scarcity continues to be one of the country’s top challenges.

Yet, Oumnia and Houyame burn bright with optimism. If their time at the UN 2023 Water Conference taught them anything, it is that they are up to the challenge, and with the support of USAID Morocco and other locally led initiatives, so much is possible.


Quote "We cannot be as effectice as we want to be if there is no understanding that youth actually have a voice, and they actually have ideas, not only in the international space but also on the grassroots level" - Oumnia, 20 Morocco
Connecting with USAID Morocco to Pursue Climate Goals

Both Oumnia and Houyame had individually worked on climate issues for years. They wanted to attend the UN 2023 Water Conference on March 22-24 at UN Headquarters in New York to share their water and climate experience with the world and to learn best practices from other young activists. Their ultimate goal was to then return and organize a series of workshops and consultations with young people from different regions of Morocco to gather insights and recommendations for a comprehensive, youth-led water action plan. With a noble plan in mind, they still needed a way to make it a reality. That’s when Houyame thought of USAID. 

“Last year I had this summer camp on climate change in one of the regions in Morocco, and I met some people from one of the [nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)] that works with USAID Morocco. They started introducing me to different USAID activities,” recalls Houyame, a Ph.D. candidate in political science and global studies and herself a founder of an NGO, the Union of Young Leaders. “I became very enthusiastic about the idea of collaborating with them...So I started believing that, yes, maybe USAID Morocco can help us in our work.”

“Once Houyame suggested reaching out to USAID [about sponsoring us to attend the UN Water Conference], I was so down for it,” says Oumnia, a member of the United International Federation of Youth for Water and Climate and a medical extern from the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy of Casablanca. “We sent the email, and the director and the team responded, and it was like, ‘I can’t believe this! That’s unbelievable!’ It really motivated us so, so much!”    

Attending the 2023 UN Water Conference

This year's conference, the first of its kind held by the organization in nearly 50 years, focused on water for health and sustainable development, climate, resilience, cooperation, and accelerating the implementation of the objectives of the decade.

According to Houyame, there were a lot of important side events during the conference, and many discussions honed in on how NGOs that work on water management and peace can collaborate, share resources, and pool data.

“It was a very unique experience,” says Oumnia. “We were able to meet with our Moroccan representatives there, like the ministry, the minister, and Morocco's Permanent Representative to the UN. It was such a boost because, in the Moroccan community, when they see you getting involved with those stakeholders, it reflects on the positive partnerships that you can have locally.”    


Quote "We need to earn the trust of policymakers because we have recently been trying to secure a place as the negotiation table... We have knowledge that we can share, we have our own perspectives, and we have our own experiences." - Houyame, 23 Morocco
Mobilizing and Elevating Youth Voices for Climate Action in Morocco

Since returning home, Houyame and Oumnia have dived right into developing the roadmap design for a youth-led action plan. Their plan addresses immediate challenges facing Morocco’s water resources and provides a long-term vision for sustainable use and management of this critical resource. They are confident that their efforts will mobilize other young people across Morocco to become advocates for sustainable water policies and actions. By inspiring young people to take an active role in shaping the future of Morocco, they believe they can help create a more just and equitable society for all.

“Houyame and Oumnia are shining examples of how important it is to invest in young Moroccans as partners in addressing climate change,” said USAID Mission Director Erik Janowsky. “Supporting their participation at the UN Water Conference is just one of the ways USAID/Morocco is empowering youth and working with Moroccans to find sustainable solutions for water scarcity.”

Houyame says they are doing everything in their power to show leaders and policymakers that youth are capable of leading and implementing climate action initiatives. “We need to earn the trust of policymakers because we have recently been trying to secure a place at the negotiation table. We have…knowledge that we can share, we have our own perspectives, and we have our own experiences. It is always difficult because, to them, we are [just] youth. For them, we bring this revolutionary aspect, and maybe [they are afraid] that once we are at the table, we are going to say something that should not be said. I really want their trust because I can be an outstanding representative, and I bring a lot to the table.”

“When we are talking to [UN] member states or having informal bilateral meetings, you still feel it’s just for the pictures sometimes,” adds Oumnia. “We cannot be as effective as we want to be if there is no understanding that youth actually have a voice, and they actually have ideas, not only in the international space but also on the grassroots level. They can be mediators who talk to citizens and make them aware of the climate crisis and make an impact in driving behavioral change.”

As Houyame and Oumnia continue to design their youth-led roadmap to managing Morocco’s water crisis, there is no doubt that these two co-captains will galvanize many inspired, young leaders invested in the sustainability of their beloved communities.

This blog was originally published by YouthLead. 

Strategic Objective
Adaptation, Integration, Mitigation
Gender and Social Inclusion, Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities, Locally-Led Development, Water and Sanitation, Water Management, Youth

YP2LE Communications

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