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From Youth Council to Municipal Council: Youth Involvement in Democracy

Published 04/30/2013 by Global Communities

Yacoub Marouf is a 25-year-old lawyer, born and raised in At Tayba, a small village in the West Bank with a population of 1,400 residents. His political career began in 2010 when he was first elected to the Taybeh Youth Shadow Local Council (YSLC), a democratically elected youth body that emulates the actual local council in their community. The YSLC is elected by a general assembly made up entirely of youth aged 15-22 and has the long-term vision of supporting youth leadership in civic affairs. Using the skills and experience he gained as a YSLC member, Marouf is now the youngest person ever to be elected to the At Tayba Municipal Council.

His daily routine involves a morning in court, an afternoon at the law firm and an evening discussing future plans and ongoing challenges facing the village of At Tayba with his eight co-council members. He uses his only day off to follow-up on his duties as a council member. Unlike his friends, he doesn’t find much time to play cards or go out to coffee shops; instead, he is happily taking on the responsibility of providing legal counseling and, more importantly, voicing the needs of Taybeh youth in council meetings.

We are making a change in our community as youth councils. We have coordinated and implemented activities in schools and with community-based organizations, such as summer camps activities, computer trainings, sports activities and other social and cultural events. The skills, tools and recognition I gained as a youth shadow council member enabled me to become a municipal council member, and I will ensure that I voice youth needs and work on unemployment issues as long as I’m a council member.” 

– Yacoub Marouf                                                                                        

Reflecting on his current position with the local council, Yacoub told Global Communities/CHF, “I wouldn’t have become a local council member if not for the YSLC initiative in At Tayba village. Being part of the YSLC was a great support; it motivated me to be an active member in my community.”

Through careful coaching, capacity building, oversight and support from Global Communities/CHF and partner Sharek Youth Forum, YSLCs engage in various initiatives and activities, such as Get Out the Vote campaigns for Palestinian elections, community clean-ups and fundraising for local organizations. These activities involve them in democratic processes, expose them to the municipality and how it works with the community and give them an opportunity to demonstrate their leadership and responsible citizenship to the rest of their community.

Despite the fact that youth constitute an overwhelming majority in the West Bank and Gaza (65 percent of the population is between 13-38 years old), they have largely been excluded in decision-making processes at the local level and rarely contribute to their community development through formal or voluntary roles. Targeting youth between the ages of 15-22 years, each YSLC internally selects its President, Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary, who interact with their counterparts at the municipality to better understand their roles and functions.

The Youth Shadow Local Council initiative was piloted in 2008, in partnership with a local organization, Al-Mawrid, in four communities in the West Bank. After the success of the pilot, it was expanded to an additional 9 communities in 2010 working with local partner, the Sharek Youth Forum. The initiative now continues under the Local Government & Infrastructure program and will be expanded to an additional seven communities in 2013, for a total of 20 target communities.