African Press International (API)

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Moroccan presents first female candidate for UNESCO head

Posted by African Press International on September 23, 2007

Casablanca (Morocco) The permanent delegate of Morocco to the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organisation (UNESCO), Aziza Bennani, aspires to become the first woman to vie for leadership of this international body in October 2009.

Already in November 2001, Aziza Bennani was in the spotlight when she was elected chairperson of the UNESCO executive council with 58 votes.

She followed in the footsteps of other women before her, namely Canadian Marie Bernard Menier, Pakistani Attiya Inayatullah and Honduran Sonia Mendieta De Badaroux.

“I was elected despite all my handicaps; I am a woman, an Arab and a Muslim… The decision to entrust this function to a Maghreb woman is proof of UNESCOs commitment to gender equity and its rejection of the fusion between Islam and terrorism,” she noted in her nomination speech.

Born in 1943, Bennani was a lecturer at the Rabat Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty since 1982.

She was appointed dean of the Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty of Mohammedia (near Casablanca ) in 1988. She became the first Moroccan woman to hold this post.

In March 1994, Azziza became high commissioner of disabled people before climbing the career ladder quickly to become Secretary of State for Culture (1997-1998).

A PhD holder in Spanish literature of the universities of Mohammed V in Rabat and Paris X Nanterre, Aziza Bennani published lots of works on the Hispanic or Hispano-Moroccan literature and civilizations, women or peace.

She is a member of the intergovernmental experts group for the development of various international conventions such as the ones on oral and immaterial heritage, and cultural diversity.

This Moroccan scholar is also an adviser to the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations high level working group.

On 21 March 2006, Azziza received an honorary doctorate from the University Lumiere Lyon 2 in France .

Aziza Bennani was honoured several times including Officer and Knight of the “Wissam Alaouite” Order of the Throne in Morocco, Lazo de Dama of the Civil Order of Merit in Spain, Cultural Order of Merit in Portugal and Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in France.

“Purity is not an ideal, furthermore, any single cultured society is doomed to wane, even disappear… Any closely nationalist, identity and community conception is a complete contradiction to any modernistic project for the future,” she wrote.

As a member of the permanent secretariat of the Mediterranean womens forum in Turin, she denounced prejudices, radical speeches, all types of extremism that want to monopolise the holy scriptures and legitimate discriminatory ideas”.

Published by Korir, API*APN, source.apa

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