PROGRAM OFFICER FOR THE 2ND COMPACT OF MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORPORATION | MOROCCO
What do you do?
I currently work for the Government of Morocco on the development of the Second Compact of Millennium Challenge Corporation (USA)
Describe a 'typical work day'.
A typical work day starts at 9am and ends at 7pm. It is full of stimulating discussions with colleagues as well as the writing and reading of reports. My work day also includes the hour or two I allocate to my own NGO, Empowering Women in the Atlas.
What has your professional journey been so far?
Technically, my professional journey has just started, since I only started my first job a month ago, in mid-October 2014. However, this made me realise that I have been exposed to the professional world for a long time.
My previous experience within international organisations, such as the United Nations and the Arab League, equipped me with the right attitude and aptitudes. In the same way, my own projects and commitments in civil society have also played a defining role in my successful integration in the professional world.
You started your studies in Morocco, then moved to France and then to the US. Why the evolution?
The evolution was quite natural. I grew up in an international environment; my primary and secondary education was completed in a French school, and my undergraduate studies in a Moroccan university adopting the American system.
However, I believe there is logic to this evolution. I made the choice to stay in Morocco for my undergrads as I strongly wanted to reinforce my knowledge of my own country and deepen my roots before I went abroad.
Then, I felt ready to open up to other systems and more importantly incorporate new ideas and models to my education. I decided to get a Master’s degree at Sciences Po Paris and integrate one of the most dynamic and prestigious institutes in Europe. Finally, going to New York was the ultimate step to my intellectual fulfilment. Columbia University has always symbolised one of the most enabling environments for my academic growth, if we regard the legacy of its most prominent thinkers such as Edward Said. Being in New York City offered me a stimulating opportunity to regularly attend the United Nations and other platforms.
All in all, my studies in each of these places provided me with very complementary perspectives, with which I will hopefully create a positive impact.
How do your studies in International Affairs apply to what you are doing currently and what you're planning to do?
On a professional level, my studies in International Affairs are key to what I am doing. Not only have they provided me with an understanding of economics, international relations, and multilateral cooperation but they have also equipped me with technical skills in mediation, problem-solving, negotiation, and communication, which are all required on a daily basis in my job.
With regard to my public engagement in conferences and for my own non-profit, International Affairs have broadened my horizons, enabling me to think global and act local. Thanks to my connection to the international scene, I am able to both project international concepts and agendas (such as the Millennium Development Goals) on very local levels, but I am also able to use my own local experience to enrich the international debate.
You’re in the early stages of your career. What are you planning to do next?
I do not have clear plans for my next career steps. I just hope to continue working in the field of development and international affairs, although I would not rule out political engagement in my country.
You have focused on most of your career so far on the empowerment of women. Why is it important to you?
My engagement for women’s empowerment is significant; however, it is embedded in a much broader vision.
I am personally engaged in international cooperation (mainly inter-cultural dialogue), and human development at large; these are the two key issues I am fully committed to.
But over the years, I came across a very counter-productive paradox. While women are often the most powerful and impactful actors in both fields, their voices are still unheard, and their roles are marginalised. In an attempt to optimise their contribution to the collective well-being, I have decided to promote their empowerment and inclusion in local and global decision making platforms;
You speak four languages (English, Arabic, French and Spanish) and are now learning the Berber language Tamazight. How do you use them in what you do?
Languages are key. To me, they are not only a basic communication vehicle; they are a powerful means for human connections. Speaking foreign languages with their native speakers has enabled me to go beyond basic understanding and immerse myself in others’ cultures, and perspectives. It is thanks to my multilingualism that I am able to set common grounds for collaborations, see different perspectives and empathise with them.
How do you think having more women involved will change foreign policy?
It will change foreign policy only if we detach from a purely quantitative and statistic approach. Having a greater number of women can definitely bring a new weight and channel women’s voices in international affairs. Nonetheless, if we are willing to create transformative change, we have to make sure that the women in foreign policy play their role fully. They have to address the particular suffering of women in situations of poverty and conflicts but they also have to tackle the systemic causes that limit human development at large.
What are the most and least rewarding aspects of what you do?
The most rewarding aspect is doing things that go beyond my person: by getting engaged in projects that aim at enhancing the collective good and hopefully inspiring other women and men to do so.
The least rewarding aspect of it is that there is no end.
What advice would you give to somebody who would like to do a similar job?
To always do what will make you explore and develop your potential to the maximum, and to be in places where you feel that your potential is both useful and valued.
What are the key skills that make you good at what you do? How did you gain them?
Communication and open mindedness were fundamental to me. Both are very much related, as good communication entails not only speaking but also, and above all listening to others and being open to their perspectives.
Throughout the years, I have been exposed to different social, economic, and even cultural settings. This exposure has helped me develop the strong belief that each person –even the persons I might disagree with- has something to say that is worth listening to and learning from.
What is the toughest lesson you have learnt?
One should not to fully rely on or trust others more than him/herself. I wish that was not true.
What is the mistake you wish you hadn’t done?
I have embraced all my mistakes. It is by making them that I have learned what I want and what I don’t want in life.
What has been your biggest challenge and how did you tackle it?
My biggest challenge has been to accept that everything cannot go the way I have planned.
To tackle that challenge, I have learned to keep working and believing in my inner self regardless of the way it goes. And that actually often led me to even better places.
What achievements are you most proud of?
Firstly, it is very hard for me to be proud, I am rarely proud of anything I do. It can make me happy, but I always feel there is much better I can do. But reaching everything I have dreamt of reaching at the age of 24 makes me happy. Seeing my family, my international friends, and my co-citizens proud of me also makes me happy.
Do you have a role model and if so who and why?
Nelson Mandela is my role model. He was one of the rare persons who have managed to keep spirituality and faith (not necessarily in a religious sense) in both positions of power and weakness. I too never want to lose that.
In January 2015, Lamia was awarded a United Nations Volunteering Award for her activity with the “Arab Youth Volunteering for a Better Future” project.