Post #2

Caroline Lavoie

By Caroline Lavoie

Hi everyone,
In my last post, I didn’t say much about where I was actually interning this summer. So here is some information and thoughts about Morocco’s National Human Rights Council (CNDH)!

The CNDH was founded in 2011 by the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, in the context of a significant wave of protests (known as the February 20th Movement) that took place in Morocco, inspired by the Arab Spring. Its mission is to promote and protect human rights in the country. It does so by conducting research, advising the government, cooperating with national and international human rights organisations, doing advocacy work, conducting awareness-raising activities, promoting a culture of human rights in the country and by responding to allegations of human rights violations submitted by citizens. The CNDH receives thousands of such complaints a year, about a number of different types of violations- allegations of mistreatment in detention centres and violations of the right to peaceful protest are just a few examples. The Council does not have the power to enforce human rights laws when an allegation is proven- its role is to ensure better access to justice for victims and monitor whether justice is being served.

During my internship, I noticed very little coordination and cooperation between the different departments of the CNDH. This was unfortunate for me, as I would have liked to have learned more about the institution’s procedures regarding complaints of human rights violations, which are handled by the Department of Protection. Working in the Department of Cooperation and International Relations, I felt very removed from the human rights situation ‘on the ground’ in Morocco, and had little sense of what the CNDH did to protect and promote human on a practical level. Nonetheless, this in itself was an important learning experience for me- it made me realize that ultimately, I think I prefer working in smaller organisations where I can have a more direct relationship with people affected by human rights issues.

Since I didn’t post pictures last time, I’ll end this post with a few of Rabat!

Like Montreal, the city has beautiful public art.

Street markets are very common, and active late into the night.

The beach! 

A few thoughts…

 By Caroline Lavoie

I can’t believe it’s already been nearly a month since I arrived in Morocco – time flies!

One of my tasks over these past few weeks has been to compile a list of NGOs based in Africa and North America. I was expecting a straightforward task of simply searching for these organisations and copy-pasting their mission and contact information, and while technically that’s what it was, I found myself unexpectedly moved by it.

It was deeply humbling to see the sheer multitude of people organising themselves, around the world, to make lives better- whether it was the lives of members of their communities, of people like themselves, of future generations, of their loved ones, of strangers, or their own. What’s more, these activists sometimes put themselves at great personal risk to do this work.

One NGO I stumbled across, “Awid Women’s Rights,” has an online memorial that “honors feminists and Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) who have died and whose contributions to the advancement of human rights are very much missed.”(1) Needless to say, it was hard to read about people – many of whom I identified with, who are a part of my community and/or advocate on behalf of it – getting killed because of their work in human rights. It was a serious reminder that it’s thanks to the work of people like this, over generations and still happening now, that the good life I have and the opportunities available to me exist.

To conclude, a list of a few random thoughts outside the context of the internship itself…

  • Something I’m missing from home: Dancing!
  • Something I know I’ll be missing from Morocco: Those fresh, fresh juices.
  • Something I’ve learned: Where to line up to catch the shared commuter taxi.
  • Something I’m grateful for: Rabat’s ocean breeze, usually keeping the temperature in the very pleasant 20-30C range, unlike in other Moroccan cities (looking at you, Marrakesh.)
  • Something I’m listening to: Elida Almeida, “Bersu d’Oru” (thanks for the introduction, Festival Mawazine!)
  • Something I’ve read: Amin Maalouf, “Leo the African” (a great read when you’re in the midst of travelling yourself.)
  • Something I dislike: Still dressing modestly when the temperature climbs…
  • A place I loved: Essaouira!
  • Something I’m nervous about: attempting a few days (too optimistic??) of fasting for Ramadan, or as my coworkers call it, ‘aww, the equivalent of a child’s first Ramadan!’ Wish me luck!


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