Laila Bourjila, Project Leader from Morocco

Slovene Philanthropy has been collaborating on human rights education projects with different Moroccan organisations since 2015, within our International Cooperation programme. Laila Bourjila is Project Leader with ARID, an organisation based in the Moroccan region of Rif, working to develop this region in different fields. Her primary interest is working with children, because it’s easiest to instil citizenship values in them, consequently helping them grow up into active citizens. Achieving social change in this manner is close to her. She’s an activist for human rights and tries to introduce volunteering to as many organisations which deal with this issue as possible. It is of great importance to her that people in different institutions are educated about human rights and that afterwards, they pass the knowledge onwards.

Slovene Philanthropy has been working with your organisation (ARID) for more than 5 years, we first collaborated on a two-year (2015-2016) and then a three-year (2017-2019) project. How did the connection happen?

The Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has put out a call for applications for an international cooperation project in Morocco in 2014, and because Slovene Philanthropy had no contacts in our country, they reached out to their partners in Gaza (Palestine). They recommended ARID, our organisation, and then Vahida Huzejrović (Head of International Cooperation Programme at Slovene Philanthropy) contacted us. After that, long conversations on Skype ensued, with plenty of help from Google Translate. It took a while to establish mutual trust between us, but we ended up becoming friends!

The aim of both projects was to educate children and other target groups about human rights. How does this work and how were the projects received by them?

First, we organise trainings for teachers and representatives of different institutions, then teachers pass the knowledge forward to the children in schools. We were thrilled with how some schools or provinces received this project, because they went beyond what was required of them. They organised more workshops and even put on celebrations of all the International or World Days connected with human rights.

How would you describe your cooperation with Slovene Philanthropy?

I have to begin with saying that I appreciate the seriousness, sincerity and integrity of the cooperation with you; especially with Vahida, the project coordinator. It’s also important that the projects encompass direct and practical work with the children. I also appreciate the fact that the work wasn’t intangible and vague, like some project where everything hangs in the air.

What has this cooperation brought to your region? Did it bring any change?

The teachers told us that there is a change in schools, both children and teachers started to talk about human rights. They say the whole discourse is now different, and the behaviour of both children and their parents has changed. Regional leadership and teachers both want the project to continue.

It’s not enough to educate children about that topic. The whole system around them needs to become aware – schools, parents, teachers and regional leaders – and a change in both mentality and culture needs to happen. That’s why we’ve taken care to include parents in the project. Teachers can, of course, explain and instil new values at school, but when the children come home, they can be right back at square one.

You mentioned wanting to continue with the projects, do you have any new goals regarding that?

We definitely want to expand the projects to new schools and teachers. We’d also like to implement it in schools where migrant children and children with special needs are enrolled. The enrolment of migrant children has increased enormously compared to previous years, because many people who were on their way to Europe, got stuck in Morocco. We have to train as many teachers as possible, equip them with skills and knowledge, so they know how to deal with children from different circumstances. There’s a lot of discrimination towards different minorities present at this moment, from both teachers and children, that’s why we need to raise awareness. So let’s continue!

Laila Bourjila visited Slovenia last week, together with Aicha Msaidi from the regional department of the Moroccan Ministry of Education. They also presented the project at the Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which co-finances the projects.

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