In Northwest Africa, the harsh realities of climate change are hitting hard the most marginalised communities. Women and children are particularly affected. With temperatures soaring and erratic rainfalls, the region faces desertification, food insecurity and resource competition, exacerbating an already challenging situation. To address these challenges, Cities Alliance, through its Women and Sustainable Cities programme is empowering children and youth in the region to lead climate action.

The pilot programme, supported by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and implemented through civil society organizations, seeks to address water scarcity and gender inequalities by engaging local communities and governments in three cities across Morocco, Tunisia and Mauritania.  

Empowering girls through education and arts

Be it the depletion of natural underground springs in Figuig, Morocco, the 75 per cent reliance on water carters in Sebkha, Mauritania, or the legal restrictions on water usage in Kairouan, Tunisia,  involving children and youth in the conversations around these topics is key to fostering future resilient communities. Beginning of 2024, Cities Alliance supported diverse engagements with school children in the three cities.

In Sebkha, primary school children participated in educational sessions on climate change and its impacts. They also worked on a project to raise awareness within their community, painting a mural on the City Hall depicting the importance of water conservation. The children’s eager participation reflects the growing awareness of the younger generation about the need and importance of sustainable practices when they already experience the dramatic effects of climate change daily. 

“I draw a tap without water because there is no running water here”

Jibril, a pupil in Sebkha, Mauritania

In Figuig, adolescents are currently participating in a short film competition focusing on water-related issues. From scarcity to pollution to women's role in water management, the young filmmakers are using their creativity to raise awareness and spark conversations within their communities. The goal is to encourage young people to become actively involved in finding solutions to the water-related challenges of climate change. 

School girls painting during a climate awareness-raising activity. Sebkha, Mauritania

In Kairouan, an awareness-raising day was organised with local schools. Through ludic activities, songs and live performances, pupils learnt about the water cycle, the crucial importance of water conservation and the preservation of natural resources. Following this day, the children shared their experiences with their friends and families, determined to spread the message to them.

Collective action is needed

As the climate crisis intensifies, solutions must address climate risks holistically, empowering communities to be active participants in decision-making processes. Meaningful progress will require decisive and collective action and sustained commitment from all stakeholders.

Although they are not traditional decision-makers, children and young adults have the power to influence their communities and share good habits, starting with their parents and close relatives. It is essential to engage with the youth on the necessity to adopt now the optimal behaviours for resource preservation. 

After all, not only has today’s youth never experienced a world without the effects of climate change, but without systemic change, the impact will only worsen throughout their lives. 

By prioritizing awareness, education and youth engagement for inclusive decision-making processes, we can work towards building more resilient communities capable of navigating the complexities of climate change and ensuring a more equitable future for all.