Wide Angle

Diaspo #332 : Kaoutar El Frayji, a Moroccan committed to international development

A native of Casablanca, Kaoutar El Frayji grew up in Italy, where her passion for languages led her to have an international career from an early age, interacting with global issues related to international and sustainable development. Today, as a consultant, she is one of more than 250 young Moroccans, from Morocco and abroad, committed to address the challenges related to climate change.

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Born in Casablanca in 1997, Kaoutar El Frayji grew up in Khouribga with her maternal grandparents. There, she lived with her aunt until the age of 7, before joining her mother, who had migrated to Italy. In her new host country, her mother, who was the family’s breadwinner, worked as a seamstress in a textile factory. Once in the small town of Marsciano, Kaoutar discovered a passion for languages from an early age.

«I already spoke Arabic and French. As soon as I arrived in Italy, I started learning Italian, but also English and then German, which my father introduced me to after his years of working in Germany. That's what prompted me to apply for the French-German European campus of Sciences-Po Paris, after high school», she explains. Based in Nancy, the school offers courses in social sciences, politics, law, economics, sociology and philosophy in three languages (English, French and German).

During her first year at university, Kaoutar was also introduced to new languages, this time learning Russian during her senior year of her bachelor's degree, during her stint as an exchange student in Moscow. Taking advantage of her summer university trips to Asia, Kaoutar also decided to take up Mandarin, then Spanish, while preparing for her master's degree. «I'm 26 today. My goal is to master ten languages by the age of thirty», she confides.

An international career

After attending summer school in China, then an exchange year in Russia, Kaoutar was even more curious about discovering the rest of the world. So, before starting a Master's degree program, she took a year off to elevate her professional experience with relevant internships. Directly from Moscow, she flew to Abidjan. «In Russia, the temperature was -15 degrees Celsius, and when I arrived in Côte d'Ivoire, it was 35 degrees Celsius. It was like a 50-degree temperature shock!» she joked. In the African country, the young graduate began her first professional experience with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), first as an intern and then as a consultant.

«I worked with Ivorian migrants repatriated from North Africa. For me, this experience was an immersion in the field, with a United Nations agency. I also had the opportunity to interact with other international organizations, while being in contact with the beneficiaries. I supported reintegration projects in particular. I also worked with women and children to assess their needs - this was during the health crisis of 2020».

Kaoutar El Frayji

This immersion revealed to be a very enriching experience that made Kaoutar decide to pursue a master's degree in international development, majoring in environment and sustainability. Working remotely from Paris, she gained experience with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in the regional office for Europe and Central Asia, based in Istanbul (Turkey). She then works with UNESCO, as part of a team dedicated to crisis-sensitive educational planning. Through this project, she worked with the Jordanian Ministry of Education, developing a risk and crisis management plans for the sector.

While completing her master's degree, Kaoutar El Frayji undertook an internship with French NGO Fondation Energies pour le Monde, focusing on fundraising and project development in Africa, for the promotion of renewable energy, such as the installation of photovoltaic panels in West African countries. Upon graduating in July 2023, she left for South Korea for a two-month training course on nuclear energy, at the Nuclear Nonproliferation Education and Research Center affiliated to the prestigious Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST).

«During an intensive training course, we started with a few engineering notions to learn more about how a nuclear power plant works. Then we studied the challenges of nuclear energy, especially in the field of public policy, to raise awareness of non-proliferation among future generations and international leaders. It was very interesting for me to attend this class there, where we went right up to the border with North Korea», she recalls.

Since January, Kaoutar El Frayji has been working as a business development consultant for the American international organization Search for Common Ground, dedicated to peacebuilding and peacemaking in Africa. In particular, she works on projects in West Africa, including Niger, where the organization's initiative focused on education, and in Benin, to promote peaceful elections. Other projects followed, in Burundi for social cohesion, and in Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo, among others.

A turning point driven by education for global change

Last February, in line with her interest in sustainable development and its multidimensional approach, Kaoutar El Frayji was one of 250 young people from Morocco and abroad who took part to the international meeting «Young people and the challenges of climate change. What roles and what contributions?» in Benslimane. In association with the Council of the Moroccan Community Abroad (CCME), the meeting closed with the adoption of a declaration «instituting the creation on Moroccan soil of the International Youth Network for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with headquarters in the Casablanca-Settat region».

Spearheaded by the Association d'Etudes et de Recherches pour le Développement (AERED), a non-profit organization with special consultative status with the United Nations ECOSOC, in partnership with the Casablanca-Settat regional council and a number of local, public, academic and institutional actors, the event has already given rise to initiatives from the participants themselves.

«I've been passionate about these topics since my last year at high school. I always wanted to become a doctor, I still have dreams... But I was drawn to the field of international development, after representing my school at the Italian Model United Nations in Rome, to discuss specific themes. I won the prize, which made headlines in Italy. I spoke about the promotion of education, and there were over 3,000 students from every high school in the country. It was the first time my school had taken part».

Kaoutar El Frayji

Kaoutar recalls that she was one of four students chosen to represent Italy, this time at the Global Citizens Model United Nations at UN headquarters in New York (USA). «I was shy, but I was also very ambitious. I thought I was losing my voice, I was so nervous, but it was one of the most important moments of my life, when I decided to use my voice to contribute to building a better world. I come from a modest background, and I was the first person in my family to go to university. So it's always been close to my heart that young girls around the world should be able to get an education, to have an inter- and intra-generational impact», she recalls.

That was Kaoutar's first trip outside Europe and Morocco. In fact, she also represented her home country at the UN, where she has spoken on the Sahara issue. Chosen in the same context to speak at the UN General Assembly, the young woman went through several intense months between preparing for her last year at high school, her involvement with cultural associations in Italy, and her language certifications. Upon returning to Marsciano, she considered international training.

«I told myself that this was the life I wanted: an international career path», she asserts. Kaoutar's current ambition is to deepen her international professional experience too.

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