HANDS was recently informed that one of our talented exchange program alumni, Aziz Taouri, was awarded the 2020 Professional Fellows Program Alumni Impact Award by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Cultural Affairs. We hope that the entire HANDS community joins us in celebrating Aziz for his remarkable accomplishment! 

Aziz’s story with HANDS began in 2016, when we selected him as a participant in our Professional Fellows Program. This is a partnership with the U.S. Department of State in which HANDS brought emerging leaders from Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco to the U.S. to exchange experience with American professionals in the fields of economic empowerment and advocacy for the rights of women and people with disabilities. An energetic and talented community leader, a farmer and enthusiastic women’s empowerment activist, Aziz won the support of HANDS’ selection committee and was confirmed as a young leader who would clearly use this experience in the U.S. to bolster his work in improving opportunities for women in his rural Moroccan province.  Everything Aziz has done since proved we were right about him! 

Aziz spent his fellowship with Southwest Youth and Family Services, a community-based organization in Seattle, where he learned more about how non-profit organizations are managed and developed. Through this experience, he learned new strategies to create meaningful change in order to enact his vision of a better, more equitable future for women in his community.  

Since his time in the U.S., Aziz has worked tirelessly on many fronts, aiming to effect positive change in his region and internationally.  Back home at his organization, the Timoulilt Association for Development, he has developed projects focused on raising awareness of public health issues, promoting advocacy, and increasing the political participation of women in society. He has built a coalition of former Profellows to design a program called Females Leading Change, which won the 2017 Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund grant from the U.S. Department of State, providing funds to empower young women in rural Morocco to be agents of change.  With this grant, he developed training workshops and internships that focused on helping rural young women to establish entrepreneurial skills, advanced literacy capabilities, and economic independence. 

Aziz was selected by the U.S. Department of State as one of only six Fellows worldwide for the 2020 Alumni Impact Award because of his prodigious achievements since the fellowship program and his proven dedication to enacting social change in rural Morocco. His story reflects the important role international exchanges play in enabling and sustaining local efforts for positive social change around the world. 

HANDS would like to thank the U.S. Department of State, Aziz’s fellowship hosts at Southwest Youth and Family Services, the World Affairs Council of Seattle, and our generous supporters for enabling us to provide leadership development opportunities to leaders like Aziz.  Of course, a huge “Mabrouk” (congratulations) to Aziz on all his accomplishments!