Monday, December 6, 2010

Morocco In the News: Dec 1 - 5

Supporting mothers to prevent child abandonment in Morocco.By Aniss Maghri    © UNICEF Morocco/2010
MARRAKESH, Morocco, 4 August 2010 – Karima (not her real name), 23, is struggling with the consequences of an unwanted pregnancy alone. The baby’s father left her, and to hide her situation she left her parents’ house in the Marrakesh countryside. Due to traditional views on pregnancy outside of marriage and fears of the repercussions, she has not told her father, only her mother.
“I don’t want other girls to be trapped like me and be faced by the hardship of a life like mine,” said Karima.
With the help of the Moroccan League for Child Protection (LMPE), a local partner, UNICEF is working to help prevent unwanted pregnancies and support single mothers. But the problem may be more widespread than experts once believed.
Ostracism and desperation
According to a recent study conducted by UNICEF and LMPE, which was chaired by Her Highness, Princess Lalla Amina, some 6,480 Moroccan babies were abandoned at birth in 2008 – representing between 1 and 2 per cent of all births in the country. Single mothers are often ostracized by their families and society, and the lack of emotional and financial support has led many to take desperate measures, including abandoning their children.
“The phenomenon is mainly observed in the urban areas,” said UNICEF Representative in Morocco Aloys Kamuragiye. “A large number of abandonments are operated by informal intermediaries,” he added, referring to people who assist mothers in finding homes or institutions for abandoned babies.
As a consequence of the study, UNICEF and LMPE have established a task force to tackle this issue. A group from the Swedish Committee for UNICEF visited Marrakesh, along with a donor who subsequently contributed $100,000 to support a new project on preventing abandonment of children. The project aims at providing psycho-social support and counselling services to single mothers and girls at risk of unwanted pregnancies. A dedicated centre, established within the LMPE office in Marrakesh, is currently offering these services.
Progress has been made, as well, towards encouraging paternal responsibility. “Recently, a reluctant father confirmed that he would recognize the baby if the DNA test proved that the child belongs to him,” said Shems Eddoha, a social worker with the project.
Sensitizing families
A second component of the abandonment prevention project involves raising awareness and sensitizing families and communities. Families are made aware of their responsibility to ensure a protective and supportive environment for their daughters in order to avoid ostracism and child abandonment.
The campaign also targets high schools and various other places where girls meet, seeking to raise awareness of the consequences of unwanted pregnancies and of abandoning a child.
Karima has participated in the new campaign. “Single mothers are dealing with a very difficult situation,” she said. “I used to have dreams before my pregnancy. Now they have gone. I do not want other young girls to be in the same situation.”
Karima’s friend, who is 19 years old, is another single mother. “Both my family and I are responsible for my situation,” she said. “My parents never looked after me during my studies, were never interested in finding out my problems, never noticed changes in my behavior.
“Families must know,” she added. “They must be held responsible for protecting their children.”
Single Mothers in Morocco Abandoned Thousands of Babies Each Year. Anne Look | Dakar 29 November, 2010
Thousands of babies are abandoned in Morocco every year because their single mothers are too afraid to face family and friends. Instead of just taking in abandoned children, one nonprofit has begun working with families to help single mothers find ways to keep their babies.
At this center for abandoned children in Marrakech, kids play and sing with caretakers.

The home currently has about 60 children, between four-days and seven-years old. Many of them were born to single mothers who abandoned them at a young age.

Experts say it is a growing phenomenon in Morocco, where aid agencies estimate that more than 6,000 babies are abandoned at birth each year, roughly one in 50 babies born.

Having a child outside of marriage carries heavy stigma in the moderate Muslim country. Single mothers find it hard to turn to their friends and family for support, but a German-based group, The League for Child Protection, is seeking to change that.

The League runs this home for abandoned children in Marrakech and others like it around the country, but it is also working with single mothers and their families to try to prevent children from being abandoned in the first place.

The League's Director, Lamia Chrabi Lazreck, says they are making headway.

Lazrek says they have been doing mediation work with some of the parents of single mothers. He says sometimes they have also been able to mediate with the father of the child. He says they have found work for these women and offered to care for their babies temporarily at the center for three or four months so they may have some time to sort themselves out.

Most of the women who come to the center in Marrakech are below the age of 25, several of them are under 18.

One single mother said she is working with counselors to try to persuade the father of her two-year-old child, Maryam, to officially recognize the baby so she can have the legal status and rights of a legitimate child.

She says she wishes the administrative procedures for her daughter could be sorted out so she can live like any other child and have everything she needs. She says she does not want people pointing fingers at her. Our society, she says, is not very forgiving.

Moroccan law provides protection for single mothers, but entrenched cultural norms mean they still face enormous social barriers. Those who choose to keep their babies can be ostracized by family and friends and find it difficult to support themselves.

Despite important reforms to Morrocco's Family Code in 2004, the law provides little protection to single mothers who can still face criminal prosecution for having had sex outside of marriage.

UNICEF Representative to Morocco Aloys Kamuragiye applauded the intervention and support the League for Child Protection is giving mothers and their families.

He says it is a very interesting and important experiment the League is leading in Marrakech. He says it should be supported by all Moroccans and replicated throughout the country.
The League runs six other centers in Morocco. Aid agencies say government and societal support for the League's activities is growing, but much remains to be done.
Phosphate: Morocco's White Gold.
Phosphate is used in everything from fertilizer to rechargeable batteries. And Morocco's King Mohammed VI has cornered the market.
By Brendan Borrell and Daniel Grushkin. November 8, 2010
In May 2009 a petite brunette from Paris wearing black heels scrambled up a pile of mine tailings on the outskirts of the Moroccan town of Khouribga. From up there, Béatrice Montagnier, a hotel specialist with the hospitality consulting firm Horwath, took in the view: parched plains scoured by bulldozers; an old warehouse baking in the sun; a jumble of two-story concrete block homes with a rectangular minaret beyond them. She spun around 360 degrees snapping photos with her pink cell phone and imagining the future: a planned 800-acre resort project that would attract visitors from around the world. How many hotel rooms would they need? she wondered. Should it be three stars or four? And where would the museum be going? There was one issue—project funding—about which Montagnier had no questions. The estimated $1 billion needed to build the resort would come from the ground beneath her feet................. 
More on this:
In Morocco, teaching independence above all else. By Aida Alami- Special to Globalpost / November 30, 2010
MARRAKESH, Morocco — Nestled in the heart of a field of olive trees a few miles south of Marrakesh is a small pink school full of chattering and giggling girls.
These young female students of all ages come from nearby villages, sit in classrooms, sewing, making patterns and reciting dialogues in French.
At the Riad Zitoune School, founded by a Moroccan philanthropist more than a decade ago, the program is not just about teaching rural girls to read and write, it is about giving them a fighting chance at independence.
“Our goal is for them to learn a skill, become financially independent so they can do whatever they want,” said Zhour Sebti, the founder. “Many of them continue studying or move to the city and find work.”
Fifty years ago, Zhour Sebti created the Tahar Sebti Foundation to fight illiteracy in Morocco, where more than 40 percent of the population still cannot read, according to UNESCO figures. In rural parts of the country, the challenges are greater. Boys are sent to school but girls are often kept home to help out with daily chores and raise their siblings.
In 1998, Sebti took on a new challenge: She reached out to these girls and started the school which offers a three-year program which teaches them to read, write and, most of all, learn train skills such as sewing and pattern-making so they can become financially independent.
When the school started 12 years ago, 40 girls enrolled. Today, there are more than 100. Some of these students, who were too old to attend state school, sit next to their younger classmates and learn how to read. A bus offered by another nonprofit organization, the Mohamed V Foundation, picks up girls every day from their villages and brings them to class.
Still, it isn’t enough.
“We go around the villages and explain to families that it is vital for their daughters to go to school,” said Saadia El Hazmiri, the school's general manager. “Unfortunately, we haven't even reached our full capacity. I dream of the day when I can say we can't accept any more students but for now, many girls are sent to work in factories or to collect olives for $2 a day instead of going to school.”
According to El Hazmiri, the biggest obstacle is parents who genuinely believe there is no reason to educate their daughters.
The Riad Zitoune School is built on two levels and is full of plants. Its classrooms have blackboards, sometimes sewing machines and recently, they have added a computer room. After the students learn to read, the school provides French lessons — a class the students seem to enjoy.
In one classroom, the students are reciting dialogues in French. It is one of their happiest moments of the day: They laugh, help each other and loudly recite sentences in a language they never thought they would one day be able to speak.
The school hopes to add more courses, including culinary classes.
Sebti, the widow of one of Morocco's most illustrious army figures, Gen. Driss Ben Omar, built the school on her estate in the region of L'Ourika. She lives about a mile away in a house overlooking fields of olive trees. When she is not gardening or hosting potential donors, she visits the girls during school hours and also teaches the students embroidery, a craft she has a particular passion for.
“I remember when I was really young, weeks before my wedding, they were preparing my trousseau and I was in awe of all the beautiful fabrics and patterns,” she recalls as she demonstrates the skill to a 10-year-old student. “Since then, embroidery has been one of my greatest passions.”
Sebti proudly said that the institution has saved many girls from having to marry at a young age and thereby miss their chance at an education. Regardless, her greatest wish is that these girls will become independent women who will also fight ignorance and by doing so will help break Morocco's illiteracy cycle.
Health-Morocco - A total of 5,319 HIV/AIDS cases were reported in Morocco at the end of September, with young women aged 15-24 making up 62 per cent of cases, according to Nadia Bezzad, chairperson of the Pan African AIDS Control Organisation (OPALS).
In an interview published by Morocco's Arabic language daily 'Al Massae' (Evening) on World AIDS Day, celebrated on 1 December, Bezzad said heterosexual sex was the main mode of transmission (87 per cent) in Morocco, a country with an estimated population of 30 million.

About 25 per cent of HIV-positive women were infected by their husbands, and the HIV prevalence rate among female sex workers is 2.4 per cent.

To tackle the scourge, OPALS is planning a series of prevention programmes for the groups most exposed to the risk of HIV infection, notably youths, women, migrants, refugee women and sex workers.

The Moroccan health ministry recently launched a strategic plan to control AIDS, with the aim to provide free HIV testing and antiretroviral treatment.

Over 33 million people are infected with the virus that caused AIDS worldwide, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
 Pana 03 december 2010,000-hiv%10aids-cases-reported-in-morocco-2010120362852.html
Tourism is top priority for Morocco says King Mohammed VIPublished by Ozgur Tore   WEDNESDAY, 01 DECEMBER 2010
Morocco's King Mohammed VI has reaffirmed his strong commitment to tourism as one of Morocco's top national priorities.
In a meeting attended by UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, on the occasion of the 10th Tourism Convention Day, the Moroccan Ministry of Tourism set the stage for the official launch of Morocco's ‘Tourism Development Strategy Vision 2020' (Marrakesh, Morocco, 30 November). 
In 2001, King Mohammed VI announced a new national tourism strategy for Morocco, ‘Vision 2010', a long-term programme to trigger the sustainable and accelerated development of tourism. Since then, thanks to a range of strong tourism policies and actions including a well-structured product development strategy, the liberalization of air transport and increased promotional efforts, international tourism to Morocco has increased significantly.
International tourist arrivals grew almost two-fold in less than a decade and are expected to reach 9.3 million in 2010, while earnings from international tourism, a key export in the country, tripled in the same period. Moreover, in 2009, a challenging year for the tourism sector worldwide given the adverse global economic conditions, Morocco, as one of North Africa's leading tourism destinations, was among the world's top performers with arrivals up by 6%. 
"Behind these figures, which clearly demonstrate the striking success of your political vision, lies an even more important reality: the creation of economic wealth and employment for the people of Morocco," said Mr. Rifai in his address to King Mohammed VI. "The continuation of this policy with the ‘Vision 2020' is an opportunity to consolidate the achievements of the last decade, consider the lessons learned, and continue maximizing tourism's contribution to the prosperity of Morocco and its people".
On the occasion, UNWTO, Morocco's Ministry of Tourism and the National Hotel Industry Federation signed an agreement, outlining support for the entry into force of a new hotel classification system in Morocco. 
The 10th edition of the Tourism Convention Day brought together some 1,000 national and international participants from the tourism sector to take stock of progress made so far and officially launch ‘Vision 2020'. This ambitious development strategy, designed to position tourism as a pillar of the national economy, has the full support of UNWTO and represents a new step in its long-standing relationship with Morocco, a UNWTO member since 1975.
Sustainable development keystone of tourist Vision 2020.
Marrakech - The tourist Vision 2020 puts sustainable development and the environment atop its priorities insofar as it provides for the optimal use of natural and cultural assets and resources for the sake of socio-economic growth in all regions of the Kingdom.
    The strategy, which was presented on Tuesday in Marrakech before HM King Mohammed VI during the 10th national tourism forum, rests on eight territories on the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, which offer tourist coherence, attractiveness and assets needed for an international positioning.
    Some of these destinations also have a rich cultural to offer, each of which enhances Morocco's tangible and intangible resources.
    To overcome constraints with respect to access to financial resources, the Vision 2020 provides for setting up a Moroccan fund for tourist development.
    The fund, which will be financed by a preliminary contribution of the state, will contribute to implementing the basic tourist projects and make it possible to redirect investment flows to new types of products and destinations.
   The banks also commit to support the implementation of the Vision by providing 24 billion dirhams to finance strategic projects.
    The new strategy will take into account the water and energy constraints by taking all measures and initiatives to preserve natural resources.
'The Clash of Images': Comics, Photographs and Movies in Morocco.By David Maine 1 December 2010
Moroccan author Abdelfattah Kilito’s slender book of linked short stories, The Clash of Images, was originally published in 1995, two years after Samuel Huntington’s famous “Clash of Civilizations” article in Foreign Affairs. The clash referred to by Kilito, however, is an internal one that took place in Morocco—and by extension, perhaps, in other North African or Arab nations, as well—in the decades of the late-20th century. Modern ideas and icons percolated through the culture, represented in many ways but often utilizing the image: comics, photographs, and movies. These notions collided with the traditional values of Moroccan society, guided as it was by Islam and its suspicion of pictorial representation.
It’s worth noting where that suspicion came from. The prophet Mohammad did not wish to have his image venerated after his death, lest it turn him into a false idol—as he believed happened to another man named Jesus, who started out as a human prophet but who was posthumously granted divinity by his followers. This prohibition was extended to human representation in general, as well as that of God—for centuries, devout Muslims were bewildered by Western representations of the divine as an old man with a long white beard. (Gauging from my own experience, that bewilderment continues to this day.)
Kilito aims to write a series of interconnected stories—vignettes, really—exploring this idea and aiming to capture that transition from a profoundly traditional lifestyle to a more modern, potentially disorienting one. That sounds great, but the book isn’t up to the task.
There are two reasons for this. To the Western ear, at least to my Western ear, the tone of the stories tends toward pomposity. Rather than telling the stories through character, the narrator—whether first or third person—tends to go rambling off into grandiosity. The publicity material for this book states that Kilito “[rides] over the frontiers between fiction and reality, between literary criticism and storytelling.” This is nothing to boast about. Maybe I’m conservative in my tastes—heck, I know I am—but I firmly believe in the power of storytelling to illuminate truth. Dragging criticism into it is not going to make any story better, ever.
This unfortunate tendency is apparent, for example, in “Don Quixote’s Niece”, a story that begins with Abdallah, the protagonist for most of these stories, discovering the joys of the illicitly illustrated novel. Soon we’re reading such sentences as: “Theorists praise the fragment—the text with multiple points of entry, whose sense is sporadic and fractured—and advocate reading against the grain.” There might be, somewhere, a book of literary criticism in which this sentence might not grate. Maybe. But a short story?
The second reason for the collection’s unsatisfying effect is that most of the stories are just too slight to amount to much. Yes, there are a couple that clock in at ten- or 12-pages, but many are in the five-to-six page range (bear in mind that these are small pages too, the book measuring barely five by six inches) and oftentimes, nothing much happens.
This is evidenced by such stories as “Djinn”, which is little more than an anecdote about Abdallah and his grandfather that segues into a contemplation of madness. (Don’t ask.) “The Sparrow” is concerned with the funeral of Abdallah’s grandfather, Abdelmalek, while “A Glass of Milk” paints an image of the city’s French school and its headmaster and son. None of these stories functions in the expected way; they are situational snapshots rather than narratives, episodes that accrue into nothing much.
This isn’t to say that the collection is without merit. Kilito can turn a phrase well, and he is ably translated from the French by Robyn Creswell. The opening story, “The Wife of R.”, tells an intriguing tale of a woman who peers through her slightly opened door at the neighborhood street all day long. Besides being an interesting vignette in its own right, it sets up the narrator for the remaining stories (a little boy in the neighborhood) and hints at the thematic ideas that will run throughout the collection—not only is this woman’s image unseen by anyone, but even her own face remains hidden from all but her husband.
“Cinédays”, the longest story in the collection, paints a vivid picture of the rowdy crowd at the local cinema, and the unexpected result of a French couple mingling with the Moroccan crowd. (I lived in Morocco for three years in the ‘90s, and his description was eerily familiar.)
It’s an open question whether the book’s intellectual intrigues will be enough to engage a reader for long. Kilito’s book may be of interest to those readers curious about Maghrebi culture, or about the transitions facing Arab societies over the past few decades, but for readers seeking a more emotionally engaging reading experience, this book is thin in more ways than one.


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