By Catherine Ratté
One might think it impossible to talk about anything other than the World Cup when visiting Morocco in December 2022 but participating in the Professional Fellows Program (PFP) of the US State Department, facilitated by ITD stateside and SimSim in country, yielded so much more. Of course, Morocco’s success in the world cup is AMAZING! Just as Morocco was the first country to recognize the USA when it became an independent country, so is Morocco the first Arab and African country to advance to the semifinals. Feeling the pride and joy of all Moroccans as they stream into the streets after each victory is heart-warming.
The theme of “Morocco leading the way” as an example of a country in which people of different religions and backgrounds have lived together in harmony rings true on the football pitch and in the work of the PFP fellows. I’ve been privileged to see the fellows at the regional level overseeing land use planning in the Souss Masa region, focusing in Agadir at FoodEx, facilitating and supporting women business owners and a women’s cooperative to make and distribute argan oil, and supporting transition to ‘farming’ trees, and women’s empowerment via cooperatives outside Marrakech. The strength of the women’s relationships and their business sense was inspiring and beautiful.
There are so many similarities between our two countries—we are both struggling with the climate crisis– flooding, extreme heat and drought; we are both working to advance equitable access to opportunity and to overcome the effects of disparate access—more for women and poor people in Morocco and for Black people and people of color in the US. We are learning together that to succeed with successful engagement, we need to work within the existing structure while maintaining a vision of change that we are working to create together. It has been interesting and rewarding to discover that our Moroccan fellows have been learning the same lessons that my staff and I have been learning at the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission in western Massachusetts. That is, the need for long-term investment from our federal governments in community-based organizations, aka civil society, who know peoples’ lived experience on the ground and take the time to support them coming together to solve their own problems.
We need to continue to collaborate and cooperate to advance these wonderful partnerships, looking for concrete opportunities to learn from one another. Massachusetts’ Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program may be just such an opportunity. As Morocco has committed to enhance regional planning and is looking for ways to work collaboratively with local governments and the private sector, the MVP project offers a template.
This week has been wonderful; a highlight for me was the behind-the-scenes tour we received of the Agadir Oufella project—a public/private collaboration to recover the memory of the 15,000 people who died in the 1960 Agadir earthquake. Touring with a survivor moved us all to tears and again reiterated Morocco’s commitment to show the rest of the world how to live cooperatively with people of different religions and ethnic and racial backgrounds. Thank you for this opportunity US State Department, ITD and SimSim!
All opinions expressed by the program participants are their own and do not represent nor reflect official views from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, or of the Institute for Training and Development, Inc.