The decades of struggle to improve women’s lives in Morocco gained further impetus in Rabat recently. Under the Gibran Chairs’ Women as Partners in Progresa (WPP) project, women leaders from many regions across Morocco chose to work together over
the next two years on two issues: Violence against Women and Citizenship and Equality.
Both established and emerging women leaders from as far away as Ouarzazate and from many sectors, including the political, academic, NGO, the media, and women’s organizations, were invited to attend a Knowledge Seminar organized by the Gibran Chair at the University of Maryland and our Moroccan partner, Jossour Forum for Women. The Knowledge Seminar was held on December 13 to 15, 2017 at the Hôtel Tour Hassan in Rabat.
The Knowledge Seminar was designed and facilitated by May Rihani, Director of the Gibran Chair and the Jossour FFM leadership including, Jossour President, Omayma Achour; Joussour co-founder and WPP coordinator, Rhizlaine Benachir; and the other board members, Ouafa Hajji, Amina Hansali, Bouchra Bouchentouf and Fatima SekkakThe Knowledge Seminar began with a presentation and examination of synthesized research data on Arab women’s progress in the region and in Morocco specifically.This research, from both Arab think-tanks and academics in the region and international sources, was prepared by the Gibran Chair, and a paper was prepared and presented by Jossour.
The first presentation was written and presented by May Rihani, entitled, “A Gender Analysis: Promoting Women's Leadership and Gender Inclusive Policies in the Middle East and North Africa”. Following group discussions, she then presented a synthesis of research on women in the MENA region. Bringing the focus into Morocco, Ouafa Hajji presented Jossour’s research paper entitled: “Obstacles et progrès: Vers une participation équitable des femmes à la vie sociale, économique et politique, Situation des femmes au Maroc.
The knowledge provided the evidence-base that informed the women leaders in their choice of two issues to work on together. The knowledge presented also influenced their selection of strategies for their action plan. The Gibran Chair at UMD and Jossour are turning these chosen issues, strategies and broad action plan into a detailed follow-up plan of action for the coming two years. The diversity of women leaders selected for the Knowledge Seminar and beyond is a value-added strength. Their diverse skills, expertise, and positions in society and institutions leverages complimentary resources needed for a multi-pronged strategy to address the two chosen issues: violence against women and citizenship and equality.
While longer-term planning and implementation is underway, an immediate impact of the Knowledge Seminar was expressed by an Associate Professor of English and Gender Studies at the Ibn Zohr University in Ouarzazate, Prof Hanane Darhour:
 “I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to you May Rihani for inviting me to take part in such an innovative and highly important knowledge seminar. It was a pleasure to participate in this seminar which was well organized from all points of view and which gathered experts, activists, and thinkers with various knowledge perspectives. I am glad you gave me this opportunity to extend my network to other people in civil society. The discussions were so stimulating and brought thought-provoking issues to the table. Thanks to ALL the participants who gave their time and resources to attend and contribute. I am sure that the cooperation and networking with you ALL will continue.”
WPP works in Morocco, Jordan, and Kuwait. The WPP project is funded by the Middle East Partner Initiative (MEPI), US State Department. The next Knowledge Seminar will be held with our partner in Jordan, The World of Letters, in March.

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