Atelier des Jeunes Citoyens et Citoyennes de la Méditerranée

Agir pour faire bouger les choses, représenter pour faire entendre sa voix

he Algerian youth didn’t wait for the Hirak to make things happen. For many years now, the young people have been engaging themselves for the good of their community. Crossed portraits.

There are three of them, in their thirties or so. And they have all chosen to commit themselves, in their own way, to defend their values, whether it is the protection of the environment, heritage or the integration of marginalised young people. Sometimes all three at the same time.

Souha Saadia Oulha wears many different hats. At the age of 33, the young woman from Béjaïa, a coastal town 245km east of Algiers, studied ophthalmology and works from time to time in a shop. She is above all a well-known face: Souha Oulha is an actress. She plays in theatre but also in films and series. She has been passionate about nature since her childhood. « My mother is very green. I’ve always seen her saving animals, fighting to prevent trees from being uprooted », explains Souha, who uses her fame to defend the cause. In January, she posted a message showing a clean-up action. Her latest pride is a video denouncing the concretisation of the surroundings area of Lake Mezaya in Béjaïa. This former quarry has become a refuge for migratory birds. An investor wanted to install playgrounds there without respecting the wetland. « Several associations were fighting to stop the concretisation. I made a “rant” video which had a certain impact », tells Souha,  who has made a habit of choosing every Friday (first day of the weekend), a place to clean.

Souha Oulha does not belong to any official group and she is attached to her independence : « An association is something permanent, it needs a daily presence. I travel a lot because of my career as an actress. Besides, I’m a bit of a wild person. I like to do civic actions in my own way. That doesn’t prevent me from being friends with all the associations in the country ».

Same objectives, but a different path for Assia Brahimi. At the age of 34, she is vice-president of the Sidi El Houari Health Association (SDH) in Oran, about 650 kilometres west of Béjaïa. « My days sometimes end at 1 or 2 in the morning, but I do it with pleasure because I want to change things. In my job [human resources manager], I do the tasks mechanically, there is little room to manoeuvre. I often say that within the association we have created an ideal world for ourselves. It’s a space for positivity. We try, if we fail, we try again », she says.

In 2001 she joined the SDH, which was already 10 years old at the time. Mother of a family, she held various positions there before becoming vice-president of the association, a veritable institution in Oran. « The SDH was founded by a group of doctors who wanted to open a medical centre in Sidi El Houari, a very popular neighbourhood. They discovered a historical site of 6,000 square metres with a hospital dating from 1836 and baths from the Ottoman period. They decided to clean it up and turn it into a health centre », says Assia Brahimi. The construction site was gigantic and lasted 8 years. 2000 tons of waste had to be  evacuated before discovering« a magnificent but looted site ». The objectives of the association gradually evolved. In 2011, the site became a field school. « We train underprivileged young people with a diploma at the end of the course. Nearly 800 people have passed through our school and at least 500 have been recruited afterwards », notes with appreciation Assia Brahimi.

The SDH also has a socio-cultural centre which offers children artistic and environmental activities. Various projects are also set up to produce eco-citizen actions. They generally begin with the training of young people who are then responsible for passing on their knowledge. These programmes are dependent on the financing received, as the SDH does not have permanent funds. « We have become a project typewriter. We put them in the fridge and when there are some calls, we apply. So far we’re doing well and fortunately, because all our activities are free », she rejoices.

Kawter Nour precisely worked as manager of one of these projects, called « Youth for Peace and Life ». The aim was to reduce violence at school, in the family and in society. For two years, she organised training courses for teachers and facilitators in charge of raising awareness among the general public. Discussion groups were also set up. « In total, in two years, we trained around 100 people and organised more than 90 activities », explains Kawter, who was employed by the SDH for this project. But the 27-year-old woman is above all an active volunteer for the association. « I’ve always been committed – she explains –  During my studies, I was a student representative. I have always had this desire to defend others ». With a master’s degree in audiovisual journalism, she discovered the SDH in 2013 when she had to produce a documentary as part of her studies. « I chose the protection of Oran’s heritage as my theme. I went to see this field school. It was beautiful to see Algerians taking action without wasting time or expecting anything in return », she recalls. Attracted by this dynamic, she wanted to get involved. « As soon as I came forward, I was welcome. I was immediately given responsibilities. I found my place to be useful to society ».

Kawter Nour began by providing school tutoring for the children in the neighbourhood. She is now a member of the SDH office and in charge of communication. The volunteer also does not hesitate to lend a hand: « I am often asked to give socio-cultural training or to design posters » . The young woman thrives in this world and concludes with a slogan that neither Souha Saadia Oulha nor Assia Brahimi would deny: « We assume and we assure ».