Project launch promises opportunity to Moroccan child laborers

By Khadija Ramram

October 15, 2014

Marrakech, MoroccoDuring the past 15 years, the use of child labor has decreased in Morocco due in large part to concerted government funding, legislation and programming to reach the most vulnerable families and children.

But for an estimated 92,000 children ages 7 to14 still working in dangerous and taxing trades like agriculture, domestic labor or artisanal sectors, the battle to combat child labor is far from over.

“As a complex societal phenomenon resulting from intertwined causes, poverty and family vulnerability, child labor requires a collaborative effort from all stakeholders so that we could see our children thrive in better life conditions….like what is known in other countries,” said the Director of Morocco’s National Mutual Aid (Entraide Nationale), Abdelmounaim El Madani.

Joining efforts to fight child labor in Morocco, the U.S. Labor Department, Creative Associates International and the Moroccan government have launched the Promise Pathways project, which aims to reduce labor rates for those ages 6-17 years in the target zone of Marrakech-Tensift-Al Haouz.

IMG_2420-300x199  The project kicked off with a Sept. 29 ceremony at the Centre of Training and Qualification for the Professions of Handicraft in Marrakech and was attended by over 90 representatives from civil society organizations, the private sector and the U.S. mission

Promise Pathways builds on a long bilateral partnership to reduce child labor in Morocco.

“This project comes after a decade of cooperation between our two governments in the field of combatting child labor. It is part of our key objective to ensure dignity of work and viable education and employment pathways for the youth in Morocco, and in particular in the region of Marrakech-Tensift-Al Haouz,” said Andrea Appell, Acting General Consul for the U.S., during her address at the launch ceremony.

During the next four years, the project will bolster government and civil society efforts to mitigate the negative repercussions of child labor on the educational opportunities and wellbeing of children. It will support initiatives to prevent child labor, enhance the resiliency of families against poverty, and improve educational opportunities for young laborers forced to leave school.

Promise Pathways aims to reach a total of 5,500 youth and 1,000 family members in eight areas in the Marrakech-Tensift-Al Haouz region.

Morocco has shown noticeable progress in reducing the number of children engaged in abusive child labor. According to the High Commission for Planning (Haut Commissariat au Plan), the figures have decreased from 517,800 workers between ages 7-14 years old in 1999 to 92,000 children in 2012.

The country has also taken legal strides to root out the practice through new regulations, including increasing the minimum work age from 12 to 15 years in the 2004 Labor Code.

Yet, in the informal sector, which includes handicrafts, agriculture and domestic work, child labor is still common and regulations are difficult to enforce.

Collaborating with Moroccan partners, Promise Pathways will address three main components in a holistic approach to combat child labor while supporting Moroccan youth to achieve their potential through opportunities in education, livelihoods and skills training.

A key focus of Promise Pathways will be to streamline activities among youth service delivery institutions—government and civil society alike—to better coordinate efforts and guide resources in the direction of those in most need.

“We have enthusiastically adhered to this project since the beginning because of its approach and emphasis on coordination among all actors,” explained El Madani. “Our ambition is to build an analytical and a practical model regarding child labor…which will be scaled up to other regions.”

Not only do these vulnerable youth and families need timely access to the right services, but youth engaged in work and out of school also require viable educational opportunities for long-term success.

Speaking at the event, Ahmed Benzzi, the director of the Regional Academy of Education and Training (l’Académie Régionale de l’Education et de la Formation ) emphasized that all stakeholders must work together to reduce and prevent school dropout during the primary to middle school transition period when many youth leave school for work.

In tackling dropout, Promise Pathways will build on the success of Youth Speak, a U.S. Agency for International Development-funded initiative implemented by Creative and the Moroccan Ministry of Education that empowered middle school dropouts to return to school and advocate in their communities the importance of improving access to continue their education.

Benzzi noted that the Promise Pathways project will complement other government-led programs to combat child labor and support education, which includes providing school transport and 1 million schools bags to students and supporting cash transfers in poor, rural communities.

Demonstrating the transformative power of education for school dropouts and child laborers, 14 year-old Youssra shared her story at the launch event. After dropping out from sixth grade, Youssra benefited from non-formal education services provided by ATFALOUNA, (“Our Children” in Arabic). After one year of instruction, she could reintegrate into formal schooling.

“I had many difficulties at school, that’s why I had to quit school,” said Youssra, speaking at the inaugural event of the project. “Now, I am back to formal schooling….because I had the chance to be assisted by the association. The teacher supported me a lot. She explained to me that I can learn as many other children.”

The association supported Youssra and other children like her through tutoring, psychological services, mediation, extracurricular activities and foreign languages classes and, most importantly, a chance at a brighter future.

In partnership with the Moroccan government and civil society, Promise Pathways will work with associations like ATFALOUNA and vulnerable youth like Youssra to ensure that children in the Marrakech-Tensift-Al Haouz region have the chance to achieve their potential and avoid the life-altering consequences of child labor.

Representing the Marrakech-Tensift-Al Haouz region’s Division of Social Action at the project launch event, Moulay Abdelsalam Samarkandi expressed optimism in the promises of Promise Pathways, noting that it would better serve at-risk communities and children in the ongoing campaign to root out child labor.

Khadija Ramram is the Education Specialist for the Promise Pathways Project

Funding for this project was provided by the United States Department of Labor. This material does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the United States Department of Labor, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the United States Government.

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