Crown Princess Mary’s three day trip to Morocco was in her role as Chairman of the Board of Directors of The Mary Foundation. The foundation was started in 2007 with the aim of preventing and alleviating social isolation. An important aspect of the foundation’s work has been women’s rights, which were the focus for the Morocco visit. Special emphasis was placed on developing partnerships to combat violence against women and improve women’s rights generally in the Middle East and North Africa, writes Simona Rossi. The foundation’s work comes under the umbrella of ‘The Danish Arab Partnership Programme’ overseen by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where KVINFO (the Danish Centre for Information on Gender, Equality and Diversity) together with the NGO Danner and LOKK (National Organization of Women’s Shelters in Denmark) cooperate with women’s organizations in the Middle East and North Africa. Princess Mary’s interest in working in the region came about during the 2nd World Conference of Women’s Shelters in Washington in February 2012 where she met with some of the leading figures behind the collaborative project. The plight of Moroccan women is certainly an issue of urgency. A recent study has shown that at least six million women in the country have been subjected to violence, more than half of whom were married. The government has attempted to intervene and in 2004 King Mohammed VI introduced a new family law code known as the Moudawana, which includes provisions to improve women’s rights. Women thereby gained the right to be divorced, became equal in relation to child custody, and it became illegal to marry women under the age of sixteen. However, change not only requires new laws they also need to be implemented and if necessary enforced. One sign of this was that in 2011 the government saw the need to launch a national action plan for combatting violence against women. Morocco is certainly an historic and romantic destination but also a nation with its full share of contemporary problems.
Princess Mary’s itinerary on the opening day included a visit to one of the country’s modern sites of interest, the Mohammed V Mausoleum in Rabat. The mausoleum contains the tombs of Mohamed V and his two sons, King Hassan II and Prince Abdallah. The building was completed in 1971 and is considered a masterpiece of modern Alaouite dynasty architecture. The second day began with a trip to the Danish Embassy and a meeting with women’s rights activists. The late morning was set aside for a visit to the UAF centre for women. Then it was on to the court of first instance in Temara, a special unit under the Justice Ministry set up to hear cases of violence against women. During the visit, Princess Mary spoke with some of the women who have brought their cases to the court. After a luncheon hosted by the Danish Ambassador in Morocco, H.E. Ambassador Michael Lund Jeppesen, Princess Mary visited La Ligue Démocratique des Droits des Femmes (LLDF).