Her Excellency, Nouzha Chekrouni, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco in Canada

Words of Wisdom: “When something is crucial, never be flexible, so you never loose your essence.” – Nouzha Chekrouni

Nouzha’s conscious-contribution™ is in serving her country on an international stage.

Her Excellency, Nouzha Chekrouni, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco in Canada

Conscious Contribution™ – Working toward equality in a Islam country

What you will learn:
1. Words to inspire a life of contribution
2. Characteristics to survive in Politics
3. Creating equality in a Islam culture


Expertise – Insight into create international collaboration

What you will learn:
1. Key to successful trade relations
2. Insight into Moroccan business culture


Philosophies – Women get a political voice

What you will learn:
1. How Morocco manages the pursuit of democracy & equality in an Islamic country
2. Gaining political clout


Leadership Lessons – Insightful leadership insights

What you will learn:
1. What motivates many people to succeed
2. What failure can do
3. Benefits of working internationally


Complete Interview

Her Excellency, Nouzha Chekrouni, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco in Canada

Thank you Her Excellency for conducting this interview in English, not your native tongue.

Her Excellency Nouzha Chekrouni, has been the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco in Canada since 2009. Some of Her Excellency’s other notable positions include:

  • 2002- 2007: Member of Parliament (deputy)
  • 2002-2007: Delegate Minister in charge of the Moroccan Community residing abroad,
  • l998 – 2002: Delegate Minister in charge of the Women issue, Family and Childhood protection and Integration of the disabled .

Her Excellency has been very active throughout her career in Labour union activities:

  • General Secretary of the local and regional Office of SNESUP (the Higher Education National Union) (1985 – 1990)
  • Member of the Advisory board of the SNESUP (1987 – 1990),
  • Member of the political Bureau (USFP) (1999-2008)
  • Member of National Council (USFP) since 2008.
  • General Secretary of the Arab Women Affairs Committee (Arab labour Organization) (2001 – 2009)
  • Since July 2008: Vice-President of the Socialist International Organization.

Her Excellency’s involvement has put her in a position to a pioneering Moroccan woman in many fronts: 

  • 1st woman to be elected to the party’s regional political board (1999)
  • 1st Arab woman named Vice President of IS.
  • 1st woman with the title of Minister

Her Excellency, Nouzha Chekrouni, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco in Canada

Note: The key messages in the interview have been transcribed and slightly altered for legibility and succinctness. More information is provided in the audio and video version www.wisdomexchangetv.com. We welcome comments on the Wisdom Exchange TV website.

Note: The transcript is generally laid out according to the video segments.

CONSCIOUS CONTRIBUTIONS™

You have had a long career in politics. Why did you decide to pursue a career in politics?

My generation was really involved in politics. We believed in making a change. We were fighting for democracy. We were part of this evolution of our society. You couldn’t be a student without being active in society. It was like a trend.  It was part of the philosophy in my country and part of our strength. This belief brought me to politics.

When I was a student I was part of the union of students, fighting for our rights as students. When I finished my studies in Paris and returned home, I was aware that I couldn’t stay out of politics because that is what I felt was the best way to stay active in our society, to make the changes that we dreamt of.

A lot of people want change; some people do something about it. Did you have any influence growing up to be participant in making change?

I remember when I was six years old; it was the first time I was about to go to my first day school. Just before I left home my father told me two things:

  1. You will be responsible, and you will be free to choose what you want to do in your personal and professional life.
  2. Freedom equals responsibility and you have to act, you have to deserve it.

This provided a path to how I was to behave in my life.

Was that common in your society for a Father to provide such a young girl with such advice?

No I don’t think so, especially not at that time. It would be more common today as parents are more modern and open-minded. In my day, this was an exception. I feel very lucky that my parents provided this kind of education.

To receive that advice anywhere in the world would be powerful.

That is why I want to pay tribute to my parents, as they are a big part of who I am today.

What do you think some of the biggest obstacles to entry are for women into politics today?

I think women sometimes build too many barriers. In every society it is difficult for women to be involved in politics. I do think women should take their faith and participate in politics. This is the only way to make things change.

In every society you have people who build, and others who don’t care or don’t want to get involved. We as women need to get involved and act.

What kind of characteristics do you think women need to have, not only to survive, but also to thrive in a political career?

1. You need to be confident

  • You need to have a mission in your life and define it
  • Once you define it, you will find ways to achieve that mission

2. You are not facing an enemy. Society is not our enemy. We should build with them.

  • Many people aim to build in different ways. We need to understand others and find ways to become apart of the group that we are well aligned with. As a group we can be stronger and go so much further.

3. We should be humble.

When did your mission become clear to you?

It is never as clear as you want. You are working on it all the time. Making sure that it is exactly what you want to achieve inside. You want to achieve many goals, which can cause conflict in yourself.

My mission was how to contribute to the welfare of others and myself.  This is a motto that guides me.

Did you ever foresee yourself as becoming an Ambassador?

I believe nothing occurs accidently. You have to believe in something. I’m deeply spiritual. I believe in God, I’m Muslim. I believe when you want to do something you are convinced you have to do it because you have a mission. I think that God helps you achieve your goal.

When I was in university I had taken the train and I met the former Ambassador to Canada, who was a great man. I asked him about the mission of an Ambassador? I was very impressed with this man. I started thinking: “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if someday I was the Ambassador to Canada?”

In l998 – 2002 you were Delegate Minister in charge of the Women issues, Family and Childhood protection and Integration of the disabled, what would say has been the biggest change from that time to today?

We set-up political strategy, along with The Majesty the King, to make movement on these issues. In order to make these changes you need to have political will at the highest level of society. When you have the green light, the barriers are easier to move.

We set-up a national strategy to fight against violence against women.  We signed the CEDAW, international convention of illumination of all the segregation against women. So we had to implement all the laws.  (To find out more about CEDAW visit: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/cedaw.htm

My goal was to create the mechanism to implement each element. The national strategy was very important as a first step to preserve the dignity of women. It is very important to institutionalize these mechanisms.

Secondly, we focused on how to get women involved in politics. This was one of the most important strategies. We had to work on how to get women who were involved in political parties elected. We just didn’t want them as candidates; we wanted them to have the opportunity to be elected.  We were able to bring approximately 11.2% of women to parliament. This was the first time there were such a large number of women elected.  This completely changed the political landscape. People where paying attention to see if women could be politicians. Society discovered that women provide different input and as a result was making our society richer.

How many women do you have in parliament now?

We have 20% of women in parliament. Ten percent are young women.

The new constitution that was voted on in 2011, stipulates that Morocco will have parity in government. This means our goal is 50% women in government. This is constitutional. There is a committee finding a way to implement the constitution.

What do you think has been your biggest success to date in your political career?

I wasn’t alone. I brought new ideas to try to make change. My party was beside me.

When we started to increase women’s participation in parliament, that was something I was very proud of. It was the first step in showing Moroccan society that we can’t grow and develop without women’s participation. It became very natural to be involved.

It made women more confident in politics. Our development is showing that women play a very important role. Their involvement is appreciated by society.

EXPERTISE

What does your role as Ambassador entail?

We started our relationship with Canada in 1962. We have had many great Ambassadors from Morocco to Canada. I came to Canada at a time when we  were celebrating 50 years of diplomatic relations between Morocco and Canada.  Morocco was changing. There was a new King, who has now been in place for the last 14 years, and we had a new focus for our society based on democracy, modernity and gender equality.

My mission is how to take the Moroccan and Canadian relationship to another level. Not only at the political level, but especially at the economic level. I focus on how to boost trade between Morocco and Canada and to make both nations more interconnected.

Cultural and human dimension is also very important.

The ultimate mission is:

  1. To encourage more trade between Morocco and Canada
  2. To educate Canadians on the Moroccan community
  3. How to attract Canadians to Morocco to learn about our culture and history and all the changes that are occurring in Morocco (Arab spring).

It is an exciting moment for me to be here and try to do things differently.

What is your advice for someone who wants to be an Ambassador, what do they need to do?

Diversity and emotional approach is very important. You can’t just focus on the political side of things.

You also need to develop concrete projects.

When you bring delegation from Canada to Morocco, or when you want to attract investment like Bombardier, or when you contribute to having your business communities to work together – you have to find a way to achieve these objectives.

You have to be well connected, these connections are very important. You should have contacts in Canada and Morocco.

Because I was focused on economic development, I was focusing on three consulates in three cities for development:

  1. Toronto
  2. Regina
  3. Calgary

My chose was motivated by my economic development plan. These three consulates are focused on business and they have become a bridge to the Provinces.

So it would appears that there are a few things that do set you up for success:

  1. Political understanding of the country you are Ambassador for
  2. Having an economic understanding
  3. Having the contacts locally and in the country you represent.

Anything else?

The cultural and human dimension is also very important. We cannot succeed in business if you don’t know the culture of the country you will be working with.

You should know how various cultures do business, think and behave. This dimension should be taken into account.

What are some of the business cultural differences that you have observed between Canada and Morocco? For example, how can you help Canadians be more successful in doing business in Morocco?

  1. You need to know the laws
  2. You need to have contacts
  3. You need to be open. Moroccan people are very welcoming people. In Canada, when you do business it is all about the business. In Morocco we will offer you tea, or welcome you at our home. You have to take time to visit, make contacts and be flexible. Canadians tend to look at details. In Morocco, we don’t get into a lot of the details in the first meeting. In Canada, business people tend to get right to those details. You need to accommodate both cultures to facilitate comprehension.

If you want to go to Morocco one of the best things to do is contact the Embassy. We will facilitate and provide you with advice on who is involved in your sector. We will advise you on which sector, in which area, is the best to do business.  You can’t find these human dimensions on the Internet, so we can assist with that insight.

What pieces of advice would you give to Moroccans on how to do business in Canada?

Doing business in Canada is very important. The success of my mission will be measure on how the Moroccan business community succeeds in Canada.

  1. I think it is important for Moroccans to also have contacts in Canada
  2. The business community in Canada prefers to deal directly with the business community in Morocco. I am here to put together those business communities.

I remember when I came to Canada I would start to call companies to say: “We have companies from Morocco that are willing to come to Canada to do business.” Those companies wondered why the Moroccan embassy was calling them. I was shocked, that is my duty, my role here. Canadians didn’t seem to understand how an embassy could be involved in business facilitation. For Canadians an embassy is diplomatic and political. For me, the role of the embassy is political as well as to promote trade in order to build the economy.

Our perception is very different.

I appreciate what you are saying. When I do business in Africa I want to work directly with the person I want to engage. I don’t want to work through a third party. I want to assess whom I’m dealing with. If I was to meet someone through a third party, I need to first understand the person who is making the introduction, then work toward understanding and connecting the person I am going to engage in business.

 

PHILOSOPHIES / EXPERTISE

What are some the challenges you perceive that women may encounter in a political career?

In the past, politics was just the work of men. Currently we have many women figures in many countries including Muslim countries, for example in Pakistan. It is not something new, but limited. We are aiming to make society equal. Women need to be part of the construction of our society. We can’t allow other people to build the society for us. The society wont be what we want it to be if we don’t take part in forming it. Getting involved in Politics is a great way to get our voice heard.

We need to take responsibility and take part.

There is a perception in many societies that Muslim women often don’t have a voice in their community. Can you shed some light on that perception particularity in the Moroccan context?

You mention equality, and I would imagine many of our audience members would be surprised to hear a Muslim woman experiencing equality in her community.

Morocco is very interesting in this way. I think sometimes we confuse the religion (Islam) and traditions.

In my country as a member of the political party we started in 1975 to work on equality of gender. It was a long process. During the 90’s many women were brought into civil society to defend their rights. We have a history of fighting for our rights. It takes time. It is a choice.

If we were to be aggressive with our rights, it could have caused the implosion of the society. There is a flexible way to dialogue with the civil society: political parties, Mosques, and all elements to work toward being part of a modern society. We had political will. Especially when The Majesty the King Mohammed VI came into power. He committed in the thrown speech that democracy will be the choice for our society. Democracy means equality, as well as gender equality.

The political will was there to change society. The Majesty set-up a commission multi – dimensional commission with men, women from region side, political side, and civil society. We started to examine how we can understand Islam and at the same time achieve democracy. When you make effort to contextualize Islamic principles they are not contradictory to democracy and equality.

The essence of the religion is to make people live well and have their rights. So how we can interpret those principles and put them into a new context to communicate that Islam is alive and not contradictory to universal values. This is the work we achieved in Morocco thanks to the vision of His Majesty. We also achieve this because society wanted this change and women wanted their voices to be heard by everyone. We sent a very strong signal to other societies that we can keep our religion, as we are deeply Muslim, but also open to modernity, equality and democracy.

It is such a powerful message, I think people recognize their may only hear one perspective, thank you for sharing another.

How hard did the women have to fight to get the right to be equal? What advice do you have for other communities to start seeing women as equal citizens in that environment?

Two pieces of advice:

  1. No one can succeed alone. We have many similarities to other Islamic communities, so Morocco is very open to share our experience with other countries.
  2. You cannot do it alone within your society either. Women alone cannot achieve equality. Men also have to be involved. It is not a woman issue it is a society issue. Everyone should be concerned about this issue, and work in order to achieve equality. Equality will impact the society, it will impact the children, and it will impact our entire lives. We need the will to govern. Everything becomes possible, but we must work together.

Society should be built on two pillars, men and women, or everyone looses.

Being the first female Minister in Morocco how did that opportunity come about for you? How would you advise other women become a Minister?

Before I was Minister we did have women as Secretary of State, but yes I was the first woman to have the title as “Minister.”

I came to government through my political party. We were the opposition for many years. We won an election and then the Secretary General of my party was appointed to Prime Minister. There were two of us who were the Secretary of State. One year later when The Majesty the King Mohammed IV came to power I was appointed as a Minister for women issues, childhood and disabled persons.

    2 replies to "Nouzha Chekrouni"

    • Suzanne F Stevens

      Celebrating International Women’s Day with an interview with Her Excellency, Nouzha Chekrouni, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco in Canada.  http://wisdomexchangetv.com/nouzha-chekrouni/  Happy Women’s Day! What better way to celebrate how far women have come than with this interview […]

    • Christine King

      Brilliant interview loved the words her father said to her at 6 and her attitude when losing election. Will share!

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