Wednesday, March 02, 2011

International Women's Day: Calling all Fez divas!

DIVA'S DINNER: Fundraising event for the IPDF Women’s Centre, Batha

International Women's Day (IWD) is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future.

The first IWD was run in 1911. 2011 is the global centenary year for International Women’s Day – 100 years since International Women's Day was marked for the first time where more than one million women and men attended rallies campaigning for women's rights to work, vote, be trained, to hold public office and end discrimination.

The new millennium has witnessed a significant change and attitudinal shift in both women's and society's thoughts about women's equality and emancipation. The unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women's education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men.

Annually on March 8th, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements. A global web of rich and diverse local activity connects women from all around the world.

In Fes, two expat women, Vanessa Bonnin and Rebecca Eve, decided to use the opportunity to highlight the work of the IPDF (Initiatives for the Protection of Rights of Women) in Fes and raise money for the Centre in Batha.

Founded in 1998, the IPDF is a female advocacy group, independent, and nonprofit.
Its strategic mission is the implementation of gender equality in law and in practice, via the universal rights of women. In this sense, IPDF is committed to fight against all violence against women and all forms of discrimination against them in accordance with international conventions and charters.

The IPDF centre in Batha, Fes, opened in 2009 and last year helped more than 2000 women who had been the victims of violence or ostracized from their families and society, and the number is growing as more women find them via word-of-mouth.

The centre in Fes is the only one in the country that offers a multi-functional service. On the immediate front, they provide legal advice and consultation with a lawyer to help women understand their rights and assist those seeking a divorce due to abuse. They offer accommodation and refuge for up to 24 women and their children in individual bedrooms, plus a laundry, kitchen, nursery and child-care. Also, there is medical help available for pregnant women who don’t have the help of their families.

For the longer term, the centre then provides vocational training in areas such as jewellery-making, sewing, cookery and patisserie and then helps women find jobs so they can be self-sufficient and independently support their children.

Laure Fonteneau, Coordinatrice Sociale at the IPDF Centre, says:
“Women coming to the centre are looking for help. They are here for different matters such as pregnant women who left the family because of violence at home or divorced women who are excluded from their family and society. These women are very fragile.”

“The young mothers who are pregnant and not married are in serious insecurity. They are excluded from their partners, their family and friends. These women are extremely vulnerable and women who are suddenly mothers for the first time don’t know how to deal with their new babies. At the centre we teach them how to raise their child as they don’t have their mother or sister to help. The child is not always wanted or welcome and it’s more of an exclusion for them.”

“The reinsertion is done through a first step, to find a job, which will give them social and professional autonomy. It is essential at the centre but not always easy, because they are mothers with young babies and it’s difficult to combine the two, plus it is not easy to find jobs for women in Morocco.”

Another major obstacle to the centre’s efforts is funding. They have partners such as Unicef, Unesco and the Wilaya but only for specific projects. At the opening of the centre they had financial help from the Belgian, Dutch and Thai embassies. Now they need help for new projects and day-to-day basics like food, nappies, linen, toys and furniture for the children’s rooms.

To raise money for these daily needs, Vanessa Bonnin and Rebecca Eve have launched a tombola and organised a women’s-only dinner for this Sunday, March 6th. The Diva’s Dinner will be held at the Majestic Restaurant and involves a night of fantastic food, dancing and celebration of women.

Music is provided by DJ Shivvy from Barcelona on equipment loaned by the French Institute, wine has been donated by Volubilia, transport is being offered by Chriftrans, and each Diva will get a goodie-bag of sweet treats from Secrets Sucres. The tombola also has an impressive list of prizes donated by local companies, restaurants and guesthouses.

Part of the proceeds will also go to an exhibition planned for the autumn, called Cycle, where a percentage of the art sales will also go to the IPDF. Organiser Jess Stephens says:

“Enticing the traditional into the now, Cycle is an exhibition that brings together female artists from all over the world to present their works and show their strengths in a creative and artistic field. Incorporating performances and film screenings in its two-week program, Cycle will celebrate women's creativity and enhance the power of women globally and now.”

Diva’s Dinner Details:
Majestic Restaurant, Sunday March 6th, 7.30pm - 1am
Dinner: Three-course buffet
Drinks: Volubilia wine, water and soft drinks included
Dancing: DJ Shivvy from Barcelona
Transport: There will be mini-buses from Chriftrans (06 42 70 46 01) to take the women home afterwards to certain drop-off points.
Price: 250dh. Tickets available from Vanessa (06 75 00 67 88) or drop by Riad Maison Bleue, Ain Azleten Tues-Sun 9am-1pm; Manon (06 45 58 21 34); Beccie (06 50 36 00 84); and Fes et Gestes (05 35 63 85 32).

Ticket sales close on Friday March 4th so hurry!

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