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Palestinian town appoints teen as mayor

Palestinian town appoints teen as mayor

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Four countries allow teens to vote. Palestine is going a step further.

Some students practice politics in Model U.N. or student council. When it comes to the West Bank city of Allar, however, students aren't practicing -- they're running the show.

Bashaer Othman, a 15-year-old student, has been serving as the mayor of Allar for the past two months, The Guardian newspaper reported today. For Othman, the town's first female mayor, that's meant a summer of speeches, paperwork, and public meetings.

Her assignment as mayor is part of a broader effort by the elected mayor, Sufian Shadid, and the city council to empower youth in the area. Thus far, Othman told The Guardian, it seems to be working:

"At the beginning, people were critical because of our age," says Bashaer. "But then they saw us working, and that we were tough and dedicated, and now they respect us."

Youth unemployment, an issue that plagues many nations in the region, is particularly important, Othman said:

"If I could achieve one thing, it would be to create a project to provide as many youth jobs as possible," she says.

Unemployment in the Middle East and North Africa outpaces the rest of the world. Called the "Youth Unemployment Bomb" by Bloomberg Businessweek, unemployment figures now hover around 26 percent, according to a May 22 report by the International Labor Organization (ILO). "Even though, in the years to come, population growth is expected to slow, this will leave a lost generation of unemployed young people," said the report.

Palestine, however, is not the only place working to empower youth in the area of politics. On Aug. 20, Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez proposed lowering the voting age in her country to 16, according to The Associated Press. The move would make an estimated million 16 to 18-year-olds eligible to cast a ballot.

Currently, only Brazil, Austria, Nicaragua, and Cuba allow 16-year-olds to vote. With uncommon leadership, however, that could be changing.

[The Guardian]

Image: RT Free Video

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Claire Lambrecht

Contributing Writer

Claire Lambrecht has written for the New York Times, Slate, Salon, The Nation, and CBS MoneyWatch. Previously, she taught English as a Teach for America Corps Member and Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. She holds degrees from Cornell University, the University of Hawaii, and the Arthur M. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure