Heather Murphy, Senior Program Officer, Global Partnerships at Institute of International Education shares her experiences from a recent visit to Tunisia and Morocco.
I spent most of October conducting site visits to E-Mediat partners in Tunisia and Morocco. It was an amazing experience! As always, I am so impressed with the incredible work that the organizations involved in E-Mediat training do on a daily basis. And there is the added benefit of eating loads of delicious foods! Following the revolution, the NGO sector in Tunisia has been revitalized. The NGO sector is being redefined as more and more organizations are created every day. The E-Mediat program works to support the growth and build the capacity of new and existing NGOs and it is a wonderful experience to be here on the ground to see not only the E-Mediat program in action, but also have a firsthand look at the emerging NGO community. During my site visits to E-Mediat partners, I had the opportunity to meet with the leaders of participant NGOs from Sfax, a city about three hours south of Tunis. They spoke candidly about their hopes for the new government, their excitement for the upcoming elections and the joy they felt about be a part of history and having a voice in shaping Tunisia’s future.
People in Tunisia talked openly about the old regime as they call it and how imperative it is that Tunisians maintain solidarity and move together as a collective and unified voice. I listened to many first-hand accounts of how people participated in the revolution, how they banded together to protect their communities and the excitement that all the work over the last year has brought them to the October 23rd election. There was a constant sense of excitement and cautious optimism.
In Morocco I went to the L’Oriental region for the first time and spend two nights in Oujda. After Oujda I flew to Rabat, then drove to Meknes and then on to Fez. From Fez I went to Ifrane and Azrou to attend trainings before returning to Rabat- it was really a whirlwind trip but so worth it!
I visited many rural villages and spent hours in the car! In some of the areas I visited people still lived in tents as their ancestors did. I visited so many incredible organizations, including a number of women’s shelters. These were some of the hardest to visit because of the tragedy that so many of the women living there had experienced, but they were also some of the most uplifting as I was showing the progress the women had made and how they are learning the skills which allow them to take control of their own destiny.
The landscape in Morocco, especially in Ifrane and Oujda is simply spectacular and the people are some of the warmest and most welcoming people I have ever met. I drank gallons of the delicious Moroccan Mint tea with plenty of sugar and I can’t wait to go back!