The Power of Ideas–TEDxYouth, TechGirls, and Zagora, Morocco

by Khadija Bencekri (TechGirls alum 2012)

tedxyouth zagora 1

Organizing a TEDxYouth event had long been a goal of mine. After fighting for it for a very long time, this past January it finally happened. The theme of the event was “The Power of Ideas.” After the event, I had many people writing to me and asking about how I made it happen. It was the first such event to ever happen in my hometown of Zagora, Morocco, and the surrounding area.

As a citizen and a young lady—I have a mission, which is to help my community by promoting conversation and open discussion about ideas. I believe that I can make a change and I wanted to prove to the world that young people like myself have power.

When I first applied for a license to hold the event, I didn’t get it because I wasn’t 18 yet. That was the first roadblock, but it didn’t stop me. I applied again, this time asking my English teacher to be my supervisor and co-organizer.

Three months later, I got the email I’d so long anticipated. “Congratulations! We’ve approved your TEDx event and granted your TEDx license—you are officially a TEDx Organizer! We’re thrilled to have you taking part in the TEDx program.”

I was over the moon. But I knew that from that point on, I’d have a huge responsibility.

I started by collecting a team—my sister joined me right from the beginning. I created a FaceBook page for the event, which helped me to connect with the other team members. Following this, I contacted other TEDx organizers, joined groups, checked forums and clubs, participated in TEDx discussions on Facebook and the TEDx website, and watched videos to get additional information. It was a tough mission, but with determination and hope, we worked together to make it happen.

Before this event, I was afraid of being unable to make my dreams come true. When I started planning the event, these feelings were forgotten. I enjoyed talking to different people and getting ideas about the event. I ignored my feelings of doubt by focusing on seeking out speakers and sponsors and contacting them. This was the best and hardest part. In order to engage the community and keep everyone satisfied, I had to adapt to many different mannerisms and ways of thinking.

People all around Zagora were helpful and interested in helping us. The governor even helped us a lot. Though we had plenty of people encouraging us, there were also people telling me to stop being silly and focus on my studies. This didn’t stop me. I’ve always believed that learning is fun and that being busy is better than having nothing to do. This helps me to develop my skills. What encourages me best is to continuing my work even in the face of opposition. My goal was to help people in my town by giving them an opportunity to meet amazing people, learn from their experiences, and have discussions with them. is what I want to do.

As the event got closer, I became worried that things would go wrong but I tried to keep it simple and keep up the positive thinking. The days leading up to the event were exhausting. After all the preparations, fixing up the room, making sure the speakers arrived safely and made it to their hotel rooms, etc. I was very tired.

Finally, it was time for the event to start. When I entered the room, I saw a lot of people on the floor. This made me feel both proud and afraid. I thanked them for coming and then it all started. My heart was beating fast and my emotions were lost. I made a small speech and then ran around the room, talking to everyone and taking care of them. I watched the invitees interact with the speakers. It seemed hard to talk to everyone at the same time, but nothing is too hard when you have a goal to achieve. At the end of the event, everyone was satisfied and people were congratulating me and each other—the speakers, guests, audience members, and even the team. It was a serious emotional time.

speakers and invitees

This memory will last until my last breath. I am grateful for all the co-organizers and other members: Mohamed ElMaanaoui, Madiha Bencekri, Abdelghani Achahoud, Marouane ElMoutaki, Jamila Samoudi-Mohamed, Amine Akka, Chaimaa Es-Sebbar, Anass Zaki , and Mohamed Zakry. In addition, I want to thank Mrs. Souilmi Hanane from the Public Affairs section of the U.S. Embassy of Rabat, Samantha Ginsburg, and Kathleen Howellburke, the Peace Corps volunteers in Zagora who helped me develop the dream when it was just an idea.

Also, I want to thank all the volunteers and speakers, especially speakers who came from all around Morocco and also from USA.

Organizing the TEDx event is the best thing that happened to me, I learned a lot of things during this period. Not everyone trusted me at the beginning, especially because of my age but I am humbled by having a family that encourages me and helps me to do my best. My teacher/supervisor/co-organizer once said, “Serious people always get what they want.” Ultimately, it was taking myself, my vision and my goals seriously at the outset that helped launch this event into a great success.28225