Rabat – Othman Benjelloun, CEO of Morocco’s BMCE Bank, and his wife Leila Mezian Benjelloun received the Middle East Institute (MEI) Visionary Award. The Moroccan couple accepted the decoration on Tuesday, November 12, at the 2019 MEI Annual Awards Gala, in Washington DC.
The MEI Visionary Award aims to recognize leaders, social actors, and philanthropists from the MENA region who have contributed to cultural, economic, political, and social development.
“The Benjellouns are co-chairs of the BMCE Bank Foundation, which for nearly 30 years has been fighting illiteracy, poverty, and discrimination in rural villages across Morocco. Together they have created and financed more than 100 rural community schools throughout Morocco,” wrote MEI on their website.
The couple earned the award for their rural development efforts. Since 1995, the BMCE Bank Foundation has funded numerous projects to promote education in rural areas and to protect the environment. The foundation is also active in the promotion of Amazigh (Berber) language and culture.
The “Medersat.com” program, launched by the foundation in 2000, has helped more than 29,000 students from rural areas to continue their studies. The foundation has built 309 preschools and schools in rural areas, including six facilities in sub-Saharan countries, such as Djibouti, Congo, Mali, Rwanda, and Senegal.
More than 1,800 beneficiaries of the program have graduated from high school since its launch. The program also employs around 800 teachers, including 63% women.
MEI is a cultural center in Washington DC, founded in 1946. It seeks to “increase knowledge of the Middle East among the citizens of the United States and to promote a better understanding between the people of these two areas.”