Written by: Sabine Stratman
Student at the University of Virginia, intern at the High Atlas Foundation, Morocco.
Thirty minutes of the hustle and bustle of the streets and markets of Marrakesh with snakes, lies the glorious Ourika Valley. Neighboring Toubkal, the highest peaks of the High Atlas Mountains, the Tibetan Nouzagar Women’s Cooperative sits between the old buildings and is located there. This is the same building that offered the organization of the Self-Empowerment Workshop, a four-day course supervised by the High Atlas Foundation in June. The meeting was attended by twenty-six women, between the ages of 28 and 63, who live in the village of Butpera, Ourika community. This free training, which lasted four days, focused on trying to discover yourself, understanding emotions, relationships, sexuality, the body, financial management and ambitious work despite the limitations sometimes imposed by society, and sometimes the family, placed.
The attendees, radiating in veils and in their long, knotted and brightly colored dresses, listened intently to the procession of the workshop and sat in a semicircle under two stained-glass windows and the fresh air. Some women brought their babies or young children with them, and others had to leave the ward to look after their children, even if only for a moment, in the middle of the daily sessions during the eight-hour training stages. The walls, which surround the women’s self-discovery practice space, were full of holes, which made it somewhat difficult to ignore the sound of the goats outside. Because members of the cooperative rented the room, a pile of rugs and handmade bags were placed in the corner of the training hall. The rugs, made by the members of the cooperative, reflect a unique case of women’s brilliance – and all their craftsmanship is striking with its innovative shapes and designs.
How nice to know that twelve women, who attended the High Atlas Foundation training, are members of the Tiberin Nozagar Cooperative that originated at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, which inevitably led the group’s mission to attract more business made. These ambitious women focus on craftsmanship, making modern and traditional rugs, clothing and hand-embroidered work. The very limited income raised after the establishment of the cooperative was a direct cause of the lack of tools and materials needed to continue their business – which made a number of women pay for the basic materials to make the business succeed.
The International Monetary Fund claims that only 25% of women work in the formal economy. In addition to the fact that traditional relationships and families enforce women the role of a domestic worker in the family, i.e. in charge of raising children, cooking, cleaning and other tasks, women in rural areas also have to do hard work outside the home. Women who participated in the self-empowerment workshop reported that this social judgment of caring only for others weighs on them and often leads to them forgetting self-care, or sometimes causing them severe trauma.
The most common feeling women expressed was that the needs of their families and community seemed to be more important than their own. Women told stories about the hardships they experienced as a result of this feeling, as one of the women remembered how she gave birth to her pregnant girlfriend in a field while doing her daily work, and the strange thing is that she immediately continued her work with the child. tied on her back. Despite the pervasive culture of looking down on men, many women felt weak enough to express their hopes and fears in hopes of creating the life they wanted more than anything else. The women expressed a set of positive feelings at each stage. When they discussed various topics, their feelings included a lot of laughter, a few tears and hope for a bright future.
On the benches and sheets of the workshop, and between the lines of the stories running around, the women once expressed sympathy with each other, and again counseled. When asked what each woman would do if they received an infinite amount of money, they unanimously agreed to save so much to serve the larger community. Here, although they were given a virtual opportunity to take care of themselves, some chose to start a second village school, while others indicated that they wanted to solve the 14-year plumbing problems. The discussion continued in this noble direction of caring for others through the stages of the workshop, but the expressions of readiness and seriousness did not leave the faces of the participants even for a moment.
During these four days, twenty-six women, from the village of Butpera, decided to work to achieve their goals, not only for themselves, but to support and contribute to the development of their community as a whole. . While some breastfed their children, who sometimes cried and laughed during the formation period, the place was filled with a sense of optimism and faith in a bright future among the women. The feeling of camaraderie and brotherhood among the women contributed to them being completely open to expressing themselves freely and openly, even in front of a few people they did not know except in training. Because of this spontaneity and openness to learning by participating in the 32-hour workshop, the women decided to see a doctor due to their lack of sleep, go back to school, pursue their dreams of being active become, and learn to read and write by attending more trainings. In addition, the women decided to meet with representatives in their village and discuss ways to mediate in tackling plumbing problems, and offered the prospect of attending workshops together in order to improve marketing and advertising channels for their cooperative’s goods, in an effort to achieve and maintain. financial independence.