Friday, March 08, 2013

Moroccan News Briefs #90

International Women's Day in Morocco

Morocco's feminist movement marked International Women's Day by saying that a draft law to create a high authority to protect women's rights and gender equality against all forms of discriminations in the North African country has not been set up yet. The authority has not been created in spite of the many dossiers presented by civil society, the president of the democratic association of women of Morocco (Afdm) Malika Jghima told local daily Au Fait. She said a memorandum drafted by her association in cooperation with the Feminist spring for democracy and equality was presented to the government's general secretariat, to the secretary generals of the two chambers of parliament and to political parties.

However, no draft law so far has responded to these aspirations.

'We have penned a memorandum on a draft law to create the high authority for parity after a number of round tables, seminaries and talks. The draft laws presented so far do not reflect the philosophy of the constitution', she said.

The president of Afdm said she hoped the proposals presented by women's rights associations would be taken into consideration. What associations are demanding, she said, 'is an authority which is independent from political forces, whose mission is to promote, guarantee and control the application of article 19 providing for effective equality'.

At the beginning of February, lawmakers with the Authenticity and Modernity party presented a draft law to create the authority but a few days later the government rejected it, announcing that it was setting up a commission to examine all options to draft another bill.

For its part the National council for human rights in cooperation with UN-Femmes presented its first proposal of a high authority for equality, suggesting it should be financially independent and that the choice of its members should be based on their competence, engagement and credibility.

The "forgotten" Touria Hassan honoured

Touria Hassan was the first Moroccan woman to take a role as an actress in a Moroccan stage production. Born in 1937, Touria Hassan shrugged off the constraints of the 1950s and took to the stage in the city of Tetouan. Before a stunned audience, the actress made ​​her first appearance on July 14, 1950 in the play "The father's Regret" alongside actor Mohamed Ali Chaara. Society of the time was not yet ready to accept what was seen as such audacity from a woman.

Touria was fortunate to grow up in a family of open and passionate about art and could count on the support of her family when she decided to get into the theatre. At the same time she had to confront beliefs which locked women in domestic roles and prevented their contributing to education and social awareness through art.

At a ceremony in tribute to the actress, organized by the Association "Women's Voices," the journalist Jawad El Kalkha, noted that Touria Hassan had opened the door for women to create and star in the fields of theatre, television and film. Despite her sacrifices in the service of the National Theatre, Touria Hassan is one of artistic figures fallen into oblivion and who now face difficult material conditions in the twilight of their careers.

Christian theological centre opens in Morocco

This is a first. A centre offering training in Christian theology has opened its doors in Rabat. "This is the first time that Catholic and Protestant students are attending classes in a common room in Morocco, a Muslim country," says Bishop Vincent Landel, one of the designers of the project.

Initiated in 2012, the institute "Al Mowafaqa" officially opens in July to provide university education "rooted in the Moroccan context at the service of Christian churches in Morocco and beyond," says the website

Addressed primarily to an audience originating from sub-Saharan Africa, the training centre should enable the development of managers and leaders of churches, parish assistants, community leaders and future pastors.

"Christian churches in Morocco are experiencing strong growth due to the influx of more and more sub-Saharan students," say the founders of the project, in cooperation with the Institut Catholique de Paris and Faculty of Protestant Theology Strasbourg. The institute was founded June 16, 2012. The following month, the Scientific Council has developed an academic program over five years to find a balance between the demands of Catholics and those Protestants, between the Department of Theology and the dialogue of cultures and religions.

To avoid any controversy, the director Bernard Cayault emphasizes the "opening" of the Institute to other religions, especially Islam

HM the King Launches Works to Build Expressway Linking Fez-Oujda Motorway to Fez-Saiss Airport, Fez

HM King Mohammed VI this week launched works to build an expressway linking Fez-Oujda motorway to the Fez Saiss airport and the city of Fez, an initiative intended to reinforce the impetus of socio-economic development in the region.

The new expressway aims to improve the safety and free flow of traffic, enhance the development of passenger traffic at the Fez-Saiss airport and reduce travel time between the airport and the cities of Meknes, Taounate, Taza and Sefrou.

In addition to reducing the number of accidents, the project will contribute to the urban development of Ouled Taib centre and the promotion of trade between Fez and the other neighbouring communities, while offering road users optimal conditions of safety and comfort.

The 227 million dirham project consists of duplicating the road linking the city of Fez to Fez-Oujda motorway on 14.2 kilometers, duplicating the road (two lanes) leading to the Fez-Saiss airport (2.2 km), building an interchange on highway 8 and developing six roundabouts.

Morocco's Air Traffic Slowdown

Morocco, which has an ‘open-skies’ agreement with the EU, suffered its first fall in airport passenger numbers for a decade in 2012, with traffic down 3.6% to 15.1 million, as the political uncertainty and instability in neighbouring countries appears to have had an impact on the number of visiting tourists.

According to aviation site Anna Aero, among Morocco’s main airports, Nador was the only one to register a small increase in passenger numbers compared with 2011. Casablanca and Marrakech, which account for 70% of the country’s air passenger traffic, reported modest drops in demand of between 1% and 2%, while Fez (-17.4%) and Oujda (-11.9%) reported the biggest falls.

Anna Aero's analyst, Ralph Anker discusses the new Barcelona-Fez
 route (starting May 19) with Vueling CEO Alex Cruz (right)
Vueling becomes Morocco’s fastest-growing airline with six new routes in 2013.

However Fez will benefit this summer from the opening of a one aircraft base by Ryanair with new routes to Lille, Nantes, Nimes and Saint Etienne beginning in late April. In addition, Vueling will be launching a Fez-Barcelona service from 19 May. Ryanair will also be starting a two aircraft base in Marrakech this summer.

Minister Heidi Hautala visiting Morocco and Tunisia

Finland's Minister for International Development, Heidi Hautala, is currently visiting Morocco and Tunisia. The purpose of the trip is to get acquainted with the current situation and the democratic development in these countries and to review the cooperation between Finland and these countries. Women’s rights are one of the special themes of the visit. During her visit, Minister Hautala will meet ministers and civil society representatives.

Minister Hautala, who represents the Greens Party, makes her visit at an interesting time in the development of Morocco and Tunisia. Finland supports the development of North African countries and these countries’ endeavours to promote democracy, strong civil society, equality, good governance, freedom of speech and human rights. Particular emphasis is placed on strengthening the status of women.

Heidi Hautala - a focus on women

Finland’s assistance to the region is mainly channelled through international organisations and projects implemented by financing institutions. At the country-specific level, projects with NGOs conducted by foreign missions and facilitated by local cooperation play a central role. Finnish assistance to North Africa and the Middle East totals approximately EUR 30 million in 2012–2015.

Pop-Up Looks for talent

Every June a Pop Up gallery emerges in the heart of Fez’ ancient medina. This multi-faceted, bustling but tiny hanout (shop) presents exhibitions, local and international artists and show cases idiosyncratic happenings that feed the creative vitality and cultural noise of the immediate surroundings.

At the moment the Pop Up is on a talent scouting venture. Artists are invited to submit proposals for recitals, presentations, performances, talks, film screenings, micro concerts or exhibiting. Deadline for applications May 1st. email –

Jess Stephens in last year's Pop Up shop

Run by Jess Stephens, visual artist and creator of Culture Vultures, the Pop up space becomes more like a mini-art center, every season. While artists are invited to participate, the community are enticed. C.V.’s Pop Up conjures up a  think tank, meeting point, and cultural hub that contributes to the vibrancy and every day spectacle of the old medina, the soul of Fez

2013’s Pop up gallery will complement the Fez Festivals curated theme of Al Andaluz by presenting works influenced by a intercultural portfolio of artists and creations that embrace coexistence. The program will include poetry readings, music happenings, spontaneity, artisan/artist colaborations,2D art works and culture from every corner, with a contemporary slant on the Cordobian palace of 1000 years ago, Madinat al-Zahra.

Friday Funny for International Women's Day

Fatima Zohra phones the Casablanca Central Police Station Women's Hotline and says:
"My husband went to buy potatoes two days ago and has not yet come back yet and I don't know what to do."
There is a long pause before the policewoman says:
“Madam Fatima, I suggest you find something else to cook."

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