Categories: Gender issues Letters Opinion Society

Dear Ivanka: An Open Letter of Welcome and Advice

The Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative is undoubtedly a great initiative for human development in the sense of gender equality, women’s empowerment, and social justice, and Morocco is a fertile ground for its success.

Dear Ivanka,

Hello, Salaam. I read in the news that soon you will be officially visiting Morocco to enhance women’s empowerment programs. Moroccans, one and all, are most grateful to you and to the United States of America.

Morocco and America have the longest-unbroken treaty of friendship and cooperation, since 1786. America is a reliable ally and a tremendous friend, of which all Moroccans are proud, to say the least.

Back in 1967, in the city of Sefrou, 30 kilometers south of Fez, I became friends with a Peace Corps volunteer by the name of Gaylord Barr from Yakima, Washington. He not only taught me the English language but most importantly to love and respect the “other” in his “otherness.” And I will be grateful to him for my whole life.

As you surely know, Morocco is, indeed, two Moroccos: The center, mostly urban and coastal, and the periphery or deep Morocco, mostly mountainous and Amazigh (Berber).

Unfortunately, most of the crucial infrastructure is in the center: Hospitals, roads, industries, universities, etc. The periphery is still lacking in most necessities of life. I am not trying to be negative just for the sake of it, but the country is in need of territorial equity and social justice.

Women in most societies are the center of life and existence. They give birth, a God-given gift that men do not have; they cement families and allow interaction between their members.

Rural Amazigh women.

However, in traditional societies women are used and abused; women are discriminated against and enslaved, and that is certainly not fair in an era of civil and human rights. All these wrongs have to be eliminated and this can only be done through education: Functional literacy for mature women and full education for young girls.

Dear esteemed Ivanka,

In rural Morocco, women do everything. They cook, clean the house, raise the children, work in the fields. On top of all that, they are supposed to honor their marital obligations.

Alas, our society is still patriarchal, and it treats women almost like furniture to be moved around at will. How can this be changed? The answer is empowerment, empowerment, empowerment … and that is what you have come to our country for. For that we are grateful to you, to the Trump administration, and to your wonderful country, America.

I worked on functional literacy and women’s empowerment in Africa and Asia from 1987 to 2013 when I was active within the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and I have witnessed how literacy over the years changed the lives of mature women in the eyes of men and society, at large.

Women became learned members of society. They mastered the “Three Rs” of reading, writing and arithmetic, and as such they became financially-independent through basic commercial ventures or cooperative activities.

I remember vividly what a woman in the bush in Mali told me, with much pride: “With literacy I became another woman, respected and admired, because I make money and can gratify my family.”

The investment in literacy is basic. It requires small centers or existing schools, trained instructors, and adapted curricula. To make the venture feasible, participants must be offered a stipend. A material incentive makes a world of difference.

The functional literacy program can last two to three years, for four hours a day and five days a week, according to the established objectives and expected results.

In India and Bangladesh, functional literacy is changing tremendously the face of society, and the governments are staunchly behind it. Functional literacy can also be used successfully for teaching basic hygiene, reproductive health principles, and political and civil rights, etc.

Another aspect of empowering women is of course encouraging families to send their girls to school.

The Moroccan government has been very active in that area by providing grants to families and offering free full-board in boarding schools to rural girls. What is needed is the generalization of this program and the will to provide school transportation to make the initiative a successful venture.

In Morocco, there are thousands of jobless young graduates desperate for a first job. These people can be trained for a period of 12 weeks in functional literacy and sent into the remote rural areas to undertake literacy programs.

Other young graduates can be trained in coaching educational techniques to help rural young girls and young men do their homewerk and solve their learning difficulties to avoid becoming drop-outs.

I think, to make these programs viable, the following actions are badly needed.

There are four things the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative should do.

First, set up an institution independent from the government to oversee the implementation of the program in the field that can devise urgent solutions in case of problems, and give pre-training and in-service training to the instructors and leaders of the program.

Second, conduct constant internal evaluations of the program and a yearly external evaluation.

Third, write a progressive curriculum based on successful similar initiatives worldwide.

Fourth and finally, the initiative should follow up.

The Moroccan Government should do three things: Provide schools or centers, provide accommodation to instructors, and follow up.

However, both the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative and the Moroccan Government can cooperate in providing stipends for women, grants to families to school their girls, salaries to instructors and program leaders, and funds for transportation.

Dear esteemed Ivanka,

The Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative is undoubtedly a great initiative for human development in the sense of gender equality, women’s empowerment, and social justice, and Morocco is a fertile ground for its success.

Women represent half of the economic potential of our country and empowering them economically is giving a tremendous boost to the nation’s GDP and providing much-needed recognition to our mothers, wives, and sisters.

Forgive me for addressing you directly through the media; I hope I did not breach any protocol etiquette. My only aim is to get to your much-respected person the opinion of a simple Moroccan individual. I am not a government official but only a retired university professor and active political analyst and international education expert.

I wish you the best of luck in your highly-interesting Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative worldwide and remain at your entire disposal for any possible expertise I can bring to the program in Morocco. I wish, also, to thank the government of the United States of America for its relentless efforts to help in the development of the Kingdom of Morocco.

Thank you a million times.

Sincerely yours,

Mohamed Chtatou, PhD

Read also: Is a Visit to Morocco ‘A Visit to the Patriarchy’

The views expressed in this letter are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial views.

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