Hi! I am Jennifer Gossmann, a volunteer at the MasterPeace Core Team in The Netherlands, who traveled Morocco for the first time. While traveling I participated in an event organized in cooperation with MasterPeace that I will tell you about. Traveling in Morocco for 2 weeks, I got to know bits about the Moroccan culture and society. And I have to say above all prejudices, coming to an Islamic country as a woman, the Moroccans were one of the friendliest people I’ve met.
This is how I experienced my time with MasterPeace Morocco as well!  

Thanks to MasterPeace Core Team and MasterPeace Morocco, I had the chance to be part of the first edition of a very inspiring initiative: “Women’s Leadership and Innovation Summit”, in a village called Zagora near the Sahara desert over the weekend of the 16.03. – 17.03.

The event was organized by Khadija El Barkaoui, the founder of the new enterprise CO-ELLE.

With the help of Volunteers from Peace-Corps, the city-provincial council Of Zagora and MasterPeace Morocco, the women leadership summit could be realized. CO-ELLE’s vision is to connect women and girls to help them in their careers and businesses, by offering training, consulting services as well as a networking platform and events. In fact, this was the first event and attracted 118 girls and women in the age of 15-30 to participate.

1st day
I arrived in the village via a night bus very early in the morning and could make myself a first impression of the area. I must say the desert villages look stunning!

Around midday, I went to the venue of the event, a very fancy hotel “Tinsouline” that was so kind as to provide the space for free. I saw Elmehdi in the entry area and he welcomed me very nicely. Elmehdi is the club leader of MasterPeace Morocco, based in Marrakesh but operating in many Moroccan cities. We discovered the place together and he introduced me to the event organizer Khadija El Barkaoui. She is a local herself and finished her international management studies in a bigger city. Now, she comes back to her village to support the girls and motivate them to discover entrepreneurship. I also got to know the volunteers of the event, from the organization Peace Corps. They come from the United States and were in Morocco for almost 2 years already, working with the children in the area. Caroline Hayes who co-lead the event in English was one of them.

Elmehdi also introduced me to his colleague Assma, a lovely person who is helping out most events organized from Morocco and is also active for MasterPeace in Ouarzazate where she is located.

The girls who attended the event had to sign themselves up and were discovering the venue. I also signed up and decided to be a full part of it; to integrate, observe and learn.

All participants were welcomed by Khadija and Caroline with a motivational speech of women empowerment in English and Arabic. Next, we were divided into two groups to attend two development workshops to enhance employability.

  1. Entrepreneurship, Creativity, and Innovation: We started with a little introduction of ourselves: who we are, where we are from, our age, what we think entrepreneurship is and what our interest in it is. Afterwards we played a game where we had to figure out how to connect 9 dots with 4 lines only – we were encouraged to think outside of the box. We learned that entrepreneurship is about the creation of a business that is there to solve a problem. So in smaller groups we started thinking about existing problems, what they were missing in their environment, to come up with a business idea. These Girls had very creative and clever ideas regarding clothing, recycling, and education.
  1. CV-writing and interview Preparation: to freshen up, and to clear of possible boundaries, we played a game where we had to first compete against each other in rock-paper-scissors and then support the winner after each match, so in the end, there were 2 people having the final game with many supporters behind their backs cheering. Caroline Hayes was leading the CV- workshop, where we learned how to properly write CV’s step by step. Same as it was about how to present yourself; being honest, polite and simply yourself. Caroline and another Volunteer were also creating example situations of Interviews with the girls, making it interactive and more understanding.

Later we had tea and sweets altogether. That is a thing in Morocco! You drink a lot of Moroccan mint tea with loads of sugar and you eat delicious sweets. Some of the girls really opened up to me and we had talks with each other and got to know each other better by sharing some life stories. That was what inspired me a lot: the interest in learning that I saw in these girls. They were good listeners and understanding, eager to get knowledge, to learn languages and learn from other cultures. The girls were all very active and it was really nice to see how they build a connection in such a short time.

We closed the first day with a film screening about stories of Moroccan women’s road to financial independence. A very inspiring movie, with English subtitles, yay.

On the 2nd day, we had breakfast together and helped to build up a career fair with women leaders from the Draa Tafilalt region in the hotel. The fair consisted of 15 different categories, such as Government and Politics, Insurance Microfinance, Business Management, Arts and Theatre, Education, Sport, International Programs, Medicine, Writing and Poetry, Hospitality and Tourism, Environmental Engineering, Dentistry, Professional Studies, Sustainable Development, and Entrepreneurship. As MasterPeace we were representing the sustainable development area.

We explained to around 118 local girls from different schools and organizations what MasterPeace is about and taught them about the currently active “The Creative Twinning Project” (ACT). I had great fun taking some videos with the girls who were interested in partaking answering some interesting questions (stay hyped, it’s a pretty cool project!)

After the fair, we had lunch all together which is a great experience in Morocco. A group of people sits around the table and a big plate is placed in the middle.
The tradition is to take a piece of bread with the right hand and to grab the meal with it that is placed in the middle. It’s basically, eating with hands! It feels very familiar, and it is a fantastic activity for sharing.

Five of the many strong Women shared their academic and professional experience on stage, their situations, inspirations, and their motivations.

The event finished off with a traditional Saharan band, which was playing amazing music and everyone was clapping and enjoying it. Some sat and were enjoying quietly and others were dancing in groups or expressively alone.

Thank you very much, I had an amazing experience and learned so much!
I cannot wait to see everyone again.