Culture in the Village Initiative – Morocco
Yes to the Democratization of Culture and Art in Rural Communities
The “Culture in The Village” initiative at the Youth Centre embraces the inherent creativity in each human being.
Enjoy your time”. “Always remember that you exist for a purpose”. “He who lives in fear will never be free”. “Step out of your comfort zone”. These inspirational phrases adorn the walls of the Youth Centre (Dar Ashabab) in the Aït Attab area in the suburbs of the Azilal province and spread positive energy around.
On the other side, there is another wall dubbed the “Creativity Wall”, which is used by children and youth as a free space to express their capacities and display their creativity, and an outlet to refine their talents and open up to new horizons. Another wall displays the list of “Training Programmes”, through which Salmane Koubaich, founder of the “Culture in The Village” project, sought to use art as a global language that can inspire.
Salmane believed that “everything is possible and nothing is impossible as long as one believes in what one does.” With great passion and belief in culture and art, he founded a project that would change his and other youth’s outlook for life in the Aït Attab area in the suburbs of the Azilal province.
Regional Development through Youth Development
In the Aït Attab village, this remote area in Morocco and a small part of the world, there were no associations concerned with culture and art, while development associations had been prioritized in order to meet the need for the provision of water and electricity, and for investing in agricultural land.
The democratization of culture and art in support of human rights causes was Salmane’s objective. He held a strong conviction in this cause, and formed a creative cultural space through painting, theatre, music, physical expression and street theatre. Furthermore, he organized training workshops on gender equality and the right of rural girls to make their decisions at the individual, family and community levels.
“Respect for opposing points of view and the acceptance of others” were key messages that Salmane had embedded in the empowerment workshops and dialogue sessions.
The youth now have a safe place to exercise freedom of expression. At the Youth Centre, they discussed fundamental social issues through art and dialogue; changed their views on the role of women, the abilities of youth, and the commitments of decision-makers and “the men in politics”. Moreover, they learn to be part of a solution, not a problem. The cultural space helped break the barrier of fear in the absence of all possible spaces to practice freedom of expression, and they came to speak of their thoughts, ideas, and dreams.
|The Culture in the Village project has transformed my outlook on life; strengthened my public speaking ability with confidence and no fear. It has also contributed to strengthening my critical thinking and approaching dialogue and discussions, let alone the activities related to mentoring academic work and career goals.” (Eman, 20 years old, engineering student)
The Youth Centre offers the Children’s Arts Programme, where they learn about citizenship values and express them in a creative manner that connects citizens’ rights with the concept of human rights and the principle of equal rights and duties. They also learn to attach symbols to different colors, whereas blue signifies the sea and freedom, and green is the color of nature and the human spirit.
The “Culture in The Village” project targeted women as well. The project’s administrators believed that if women were convinced by the Youth Centre’s role in training and learning, they would send their children to it without hesitation.
Moreover, the Youth Centre launched the “Girls Talks” initiative, which involves girls who possess tremendous abilities, advanced qualifications, high productivity, and excellent effectiveness. Despite these characteristics, girls often have their life plan drawn for them, which primarily entailed dropping out and getting married. This forum helped raise girls’ awareness of their mental and physical health, educate them on adolescence, and enable them to enhance their skills to be active members of their communities.
|“As a young woman, the Culture in The Village Initiative inspired me to continue to develop the experiences I had gained from these workshops at the personal and academic levels. I took on the responsibility of volunteering and providing workshops of the same quality to benefit and support young people just like me, and thus become an active member within and outside Aït Attab.” (Wasima, 19 years old, university student)
Alongside Salmane a number of other volunteers are involved in the project. These volunteers strongly believe in the importance of their mission and the role of the Youth Centre. They provide guidance to students in selecting a course of study which will lead them in the future to a career they practice with love and conviction.
Salmane says: “I am an example of a person with modest means, but I have succeeded in establishing a series of initiatives and projects that are difficult to organize in Aït Attab, because I believed in investing in the intellect of young people in innovative and creative ways. Deep inside, I am confident that I can overcome all difficulties, and even if I faced closed doors, and found the first, the second, the third, the fourth or even the ninetieth door locked; I will one day find an open door, and I will try to use it positively to achieve what I want.”
|“The Youth Centre in Aït Attab represents a valuable opportunity for every youth and child in the town. It helped crystalize their personalities, enhance their qualifications, and fill the deadly void from which we suffer. I have been able to participate in a number of activities and programmes, including “The Life Skills Training” and “A Glimmer of Hope” workshops, which enabled me to meet young people from all over the country, and learn about their personal and academic experiences as well as their careers. I also had conversations with them and asked questions freely in a setting conducive to exchanging views. All that helped develop my knowledge and creative thinking.” (Sharafuddin, former volunteer)
We Are Change and Hope, Makers
Over three years, the “Culture in The Village” project trained 5,000 male and female participants; implemented twelve different artistic and cultural programs directly related to human rights, citizenship and democracy; launched 35 programs at the Youth Centre; and hosted 120 actors and speakers in the cultural sphere from different regions and cities in Morocco.
“It is my duty to make a difference in my community through my profession and the work I do. I must overcome the obstacles and difficulties we face in our quest for change, which begins from me as a citizen, first through my thoughts than through my knowledge and actions, thereby reflecting on my community.” Salmane Koubaich says.
|“The Youth Centre is home to all youth. I discovered my hidden skills and abilities. Thanks to the Youth Centre, I know who I am and what I really want. Furthermore, the Youth Centre caused me to improve myself and my skills, through organizing workshops and events or creating different projects from one simple idea.” (Mohammed, 27 years old, former trainee at “Culture in The Village”)
The “Culture in The Village” Initiative is a Message of Hope and Change
Change can happen anywhere and not just in the city. These workshops have contributed to promoting the acceptance of difference. They have demonstrated that any initiative can make a difference through a single word or action and can make leaders and agents of change in society.
The “Culture in The Village” initiative demonstrated that artistic culture is not limited to the idea of making “art for art’s sake“, but goes beyond that to a higher purpose, namely; working for and believing in the capacities of man and the entirety of the society, through the use of arts, and transcend towards values that respect diversity and difference.