After weeks of diplomatic conversations and hours of hard work to make it all come together, the First Preparatory Meeting of the 9th Forum for the Future will take place in El Jadida, Morocco, September 3-4, 2012.

The League team (check team bios below) will travel to El Jadida August 29 landing in Casablanca on August 30. The meeting will begin with an opening reception on the evening of September 2, where the League and ARFORGHE will officially welcome members of civil society organizations from 20 countries from the broader Middle East and North Africa Region.  154 invitations were sent, 71 persons registered (60 women and 11 men), 60 did not register, and 23 declined the invitation due to prior commitments. 

The official opening will take place in the morning of September 3 with the participation of U.S. Ambassador Samuel Kaplan and representatives from the governments of Morocco and Tunisia. The U.S. delegation is led by Ambassador Melanne Verveer, director of the U.S. Department of State’s office on Global Women’s Issues.  Ambassador Verveer coordinates foreign policy issues and activities relating to the political, economic and social advancement of women around the world.  Check the bios of speakers below.  Other speakers include Hakima El Haite and Rajaa Naji-Mekkaoui.

During the course of the day, the participants will engage in a series of conversations/open dialogue with their governments on such issues as gender equality under the law, women's political participation, and youth and women in the economy. 

Dr. Toni Larson, a newly elected board member of the League of Women Voters of the United States, will lead a National Advocacy Workshop for Moroccan nongovernmental organizations on September 6, 2012. 

A note about El Jadida:  The Portuguese town named Mazagan is the original urban settlement. It was built in order to defend trade vessels between Asia and Europe from coastal Moroccans waging what they called jihad, but which was nothing but piracy. The Portuguese stayed here for more than 250 years, until 1769, and when the Muslim conquered it, they saw it fit to give it a new name. And so it very much was; El-Jadida is Arabic for "new".

Much of the old town has fallen into disrepair over years, and you have to look carefully to find spots that permit a glimpse back to times when this was a prosperous and busy place. Inside the town walls there are churches, mosques and synagogues. As the mosque's minaret is a converted lighthouse, El-Jadida is claimed to home the world's only pentagonal minaret.