Marrakech – U.S. First Lady Jill Biden visited the Ennakhil Association, a Moroccan nonprofit organization in Marrakech, on Sunday, June 4, during her six-day trip through the Middle East and North Africa. The visit showcased the First Lady’s continued work to empower youth and women around the world and U.S. support for locally driven solutions that support Moroccans in vulnerable situations to address the social and economic challenges they face.
During the visit, Dr. Biden met with the staff and participants of two programs funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
The first is Ennakhil Association, a champion of women’s rights that operates a discrete gender-based violence (GBV) crisis center and has advocated for catalytic GBV legislation. With more than $820,000 in U.S. funding, Ennakhil optimized its expertise to strengthen the capacities of local associations in the region, advocated for landmark legislation favoring civil society, and expanded its support services for women who have experienced GBV through the design and launch of both a mobile app that enables virtual consultations and a solidarity restaurant where women participate in vocational training.
Dr. Biden met with six women who lead cooperatives that have each received a $9,000 cash grant through USAID’s Cooperative Financing Program, an $18.2 million initiative which is implemented by GiveDirectly and in partnership with the Moroccan government’s National Initiative for Human Development (INDH). The program directly supports 1,400 Moroccan cooperatives economically impacted by various shocks, such as COVID-19, climate change, drought, and inflation, helping them revive production, improve livelihoods, and become more resilient. Dr. Biden learned about their work and viewed their diverse products, including argan- and olive-based goods, traditional clothing, embroidery, rugs, and hand-woven baskets.
“What you’ve created here is not only saving the lives of the survivors you help with counseling and skills training. You’re also helping countless Moroccans whom you will never meet, whose lives are better because this organization has strengthened women’s and disability rights, along with so many support systems. So thank you,” remarked the First Lady of Ennakhil Association. “And thank you to GiveDirectly and the other organizations here who are doing such important work.
“Empowered women power our communities,” she added. “That’s why USAID has invested in this space and so many of you here. We’re proud to be your partner. But this isn’t just about government-to-government relationships. It’s people to people, heart to heart—and we want to work with you to help make our world better for everyone.”
Prior to delivering remarks, Marrakech singer and influencer Manal Benchlikha introduced the First Lady as a fellow champion for women worldwide. Also in attendance were Ambassador Puneet Talwar and his wife, Dr. Sarosh Sattar, Consul General Lawrence Randolph, Mr. Karim Kassi Lahlou, Wali of the Marrakech-Safi region, Mr. Mohammed Dardouri, Wali-National Coordinator of the National Initiative for Human Development, Mr. Lhoucine Raji, President of Ennakhil Association, Mrs. Zakia Mrini, Founder and Secretary General of Ennakhil Association, Mrs. Jamila Abass, Director of GiveDirectly Morocco, and program staff and participants.
“We are so honored to have the First Lady of the United States Dr. Jill Biden with us today to recognize the important work of two USAID partners…[who] contribute greatly to helping women achieve greater independence and to lead their lives with dignity,” said Ambassador Talwar.
The visit underscored the importance of the collaboration between the U.S. and Moroccan governments to promote social and economic inclusion of people in vulnerable situations, including women, youth, and persons with disabilities, especially during times of hardship.
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