Womenâs Project Update, Morocco: Getting the Government on Board!
This blog entry was first published on http://burningthecouch.wordpress.com/2012/09/15/womens-project-update-morocco-getting-the-government-on-board/
I can hardly believe another two weeks has passed since I last updated this blog. So much has happened during that time, and on so many fronts, and itâs just hit me that I only have three weeks left in Taroudant, Morocco working with local NGO Groupe Maroc Horizons (GMH) and Moroccan Childrenâs Trust (MCT). As I reflect on what I and the GMH/MCT team have achieved in the short five and a half months since I arrived here, and anticipate the exciting times that lie ahead, I canât help but be incredibly proud of everyone whoâs come together to make this project happen.
This project, is an initiative that aims to provide an income for mothers of street children who visit GMHâs Centre Afak Pour Les Enfants et Leurs Familles en Situations Difficiles. It is a project that has been facilitated and driven by the Moroccan team here, with the support of its London partner, MCT, but that has been formed as a result of months of close consultation with the women who will be benefiting from it.
For the last five months, our weekly womenâs group meetings have been the mechanism via which we have fleshed out these womenâs challenges and problems, priorities and hopes. Our focus in late months on the development of an income-generating project has stemmed from the womenâs own identification of what they see as most useful to them. The weekly meetings have also been a forum for discussion on important issues, like womenâs rights, and the occasional social outing or sports session. The memory of being fiercely chased with boxing gloves by the grandmother of one of the kids at the Centre, hijab off and hair flying, will stay with me for quite a while, I imagine!
What we have developed with these women, is in effect a catering service that will provide breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea to the employees of well-populated government offices, who currently find it very difficult to leave their posts to buy food due to workloads and allocated break times. We are currently in the process of establishing partnerships with heads of various administrations, and next week will be meeting with the President of local government himself to present our proposal with the hope weâll gain his valuable support. Through both formal meetings and informal conversations with those whom the catering project would service, a great deal of interest and encouragement has been generated at the level of government. As similar services are being provided in other parts of Morocco (though these just follow a standard business model), and countless members of government including the administration chiefs have expressed keen interest, all looks good to go. What we are keen to negotiate is a permanent place for the women to use at each administration for the preparation of the food.
This project is promising for a number of reasons. Not only does it address a gap in the service market while providing previously unemployed and uneducated women with the opportunity to make an income, it places socially marginalised women right under the noses of policy-makers. In other words, secondary to the immediate goals of generating an income for these mothers and their families, it is hoped that integrating women into the public domain will help make their unique situations more visible to those who can influence public policy in their favour.
Whilst this project caters to womenâs own strengths, as identified by them, we also hope to provide women with the opportunity to develop their skills and learn new ones. As a first step and to ready the women for their new roles, last week we conducted our first workshop/training module on food preparation and good hygiene practices. Over the next two weeks we will be conducting modules on basic money management, professional communication and presentation, and other relevant topics. We also hope in the near future to be able to connect the women with training catering to other interests identified by them, literacy being just one of them. Below you can see a couple of photos from Thursdayâs workshop. Iâm happy to announce that I am now the proud Australian owner of the recipe for delicious traditional Moroccan pastry âmissiminâ!
Discussing good hygiene practices with the Womenâs Group
The Womenâs Group making traditional âmissiminâ during a food preparation workshop
Indeed, everything is very exciting; on the brink of being actualised. My only hope is that Iâll get to see the project implemented before I have to get on a plane in three weeks, though Iâm afraid to say that timing has never been my strong suit! Nonetheless, I am assured a continued role via email, and who knows â I might even make it my business to return to this wonderful country sooner rather than later!