In Morocco, a traditionally conservative and patriarchal society where sex outside of marriage is strongly condemned and sexuality remains an extremely taboo subject, youth have little access to the information they need to care for their sexual and reproductive health.
Many young people indicate that the limited, largely scientific, and often religiously grounded sexuality education offered in schools is insufficient to meet their needs. The fear of stigmatisation and discrimination upon disclosing sexual activity also discourages a large number of youth from using the services and resources that do exist.
The result is that many young Moroccans are at great risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, and of having unplanned pregnancies and unsafe abortions. Compounding these issues, deep-rooted gender inequality mean girls and women are particularly vulnerable to health hazards as well as gender-based violence.
What is Bila7araje Morocco?
In response to the challenges named above, OneWorld launched Bila7araje in 2011, four years after the program was co-developed with the innovative design studio Butterfly Works. This has opened up discrete, trustworthy channels through which youth can access accurate, confidential, and unbiased information about sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).
The main avenues put in place include a mobile phone and web-based question-and-answer service staffed by trained counsellors from the Association for the Fight against HIV/AIDS (ALCS) and a radio program hosted by a local expert on youth SRHR. Together, these services have extended both the reach and impact of SRHR and gender education throughout the country.
Since it was first aired on HIT Radio, a national station favoured by youth, the program "On t'écoute avec Doc Samad" ("We're listening to you with Doctor Samad") has grown incredibly popular across the country. The show intersperses popular music with live discussion and answers to young people's questions on SRH, and now airs on a daily basis from Sunday to Thursday, from 9pm to midnight. The show was co-developed by OneWorld and HIT Radio.
Between January 2012 and March 2013, Bila7araje received nearly 100,000 questions from youth around the country - via SMS, e-mails, a Web question-and-answer form, Facebook chat, and calls to the radio show. The majority of questions were received in conjunction with the "On t'écoute" radio program. During the first quarter of 2013 alone, the show received a total of 32,700 calls and 9,300 emails during the live broadcast, and an additional 7,200 emails immediately after.
Live streaming of the radio program online, active outreach using the Bila7araje Facebook page, the training of radio journalists in SRH issues, and Doctor Samad's participation in live conferences around Morocco also ensures that this critical information about SRHR issues is reaching youth all around the country.
Bila7araje Morocco is implemented by a collaborative network of actors, including OneWorld UK, the Association de Lutte Contre le SIDA (ALCS), HIT Radio, Soleil, the Democratic Association of Moroccan Women (ADFM), UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNESCO, and the national Ministries of Health, Education, and Youth.
Funding for the project has been provided by Oxfam Novib. The Learning about Living concept was developed by OneWorld UK and Butterfly Works Netherlands in 2007 and has since been introduced in Nigeria, Senegal, Egypt, Mali, and Cambodia.
In 2013, the Bila7araje mobile service and the "On t'écoute avec Doc Samad" radio show were handed over to the ALCS and HIT Radio, respectively, and continue to operate.
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