by Safae Lacheheb, Project Assistant, HAF Mohammedia Team
It is not my habit to write about topics related to gender, or to highlight the words “women” and “men”, and I will explain the reason. But lately I have been thinking a lot about the position of women in Morocco, maybe because during the past two weeks around International Women's Day, I have been hearing a lot about the subject. I have been hearing about it in the media, in different conversations, and I was invited to different events celebrating the occasion.
I was never a fan of one of International Women's Day and I never really marked it in my calendar, but it still a day that carries great meaning and has much symbolic value. For that reason I felt I want to share few thoughts about this day, especially about my experience as a female employee in a development organization like High Atlas Foundation.
What is it like to be a woman working for HAF? I actually never asked myself this question, and the reason is: there was never a reason to ask; I didn't feel the need to ask, simply because it didn't matter if I was a woman or a man. HAF was kind enough to not remind me of this eternal question of gender.
I have always felt that the messages about women’s rights are not productive, despite their good intentions: they do not improve women’s position in the society, because they try to prove what is obvious. Those messages have put women on the weaker side, on the defensive side, by repeating tirelessly the same statement “WOMEN ARE EQUAL TO MEN”. I have been listening and thinking there is no need to compare two human beings.
What is positive about my experience in HAF, is that I never had to ask myself gender questions. As a woman in HAF I was just an employee, not underestimated, overestimated, or comforted. The feminine presence at HAF is very remarkable, and it is based on merit, worthiness and competency. Female employees have the advantage to work in an environment of respect, freedom and democracy, have all the space they need to express themselves, are accountable and have the same obligations as their male colleagues. They go through the same system of evaluation, have the same chances for career evolution, and get promoted based on their competencies.
I am fortunate to work in this organization where the word “discrimination” does not exist. All employees, interns and volunteers enjoy the same rights, no matter what their gender, their nationality, race, color, or religion, as long as they’re hard-working, dedicated, and faithful to the fundamental values of the organization. Working in this environment made me realize how it is enriching to work in a space of diversity. It's comparable to a mosaic where each one is bringing difference and uniqueness while constituting parts of the same picture. This explains the high number of women working for the Foundation, all of whom present role models of independent and successful women.
This being said, HAF supports women and the gender approach constitutes one of its main values; this support is manifested in many fields including empowerment of women through training and capacity building. HAF has invested considerable resources in this area, providing capacity building for its employees and project beneficiaries through different programs in Morocco.
In this regard I was lucky to be part of one of these programs of capacity building, which was implemented to the benefit of students and civil society actors in Mohammedia. Among the beneficiaries were a large number of women from different ages and different social categories.
From the start of the program, the participation of women was remarkable. In fact their contribution to community planning and identification of key projects for their communities, and then to the design of these projects, contributed greatly to the success of the program. Through the different phases of the program they put time and effort into the learning process and showed a high level of commitment to and great motivation for improving their capacities.
Among these women were strong and admirable women who were active in many organizations, who occupied different positions in different structures, as well as those who played a leading role in the process of creating two coalitions of associations in Mohammedia. There were many examples of inspiring women during the program. One of the lessons I learned from my experience with these women was that when it comes to development there is absolutely no difference between women and men.
If we can state this today, it’s only thanks to organizations like HAF, who have been supporting Moroccan women for years through different programs implementedthroughout the country - from supporting girls with education and programs aiming fighting of school drop, to the empowerment of university students, association actors and elected officials.
The positive results of these different projects should encourage us to continue helping women to develop their capacities in different areas and to increase their role in development to evolve to a larger scale. This will have a positive impact on society as a whole. Because investing in women is an investment in development, they will only make the world greener, cleaner and more beautiful. And that’s how we truly honor women.
Safae Lacheheb, Project Assistant, HAF Mohammedia Team