In this world, people go through many things; some are good and some bad. But the memories stay with us. No matter how much experience we gather, the memories remain. The challenges people go through can change the way they think, feel and act. I know this because of what I experienced as a HAF manager during the training in Al Haouz Province with the elected women, female leaders of civil society, the community members and the authorities.When I had just started the training, I had to deliver different letters to inform authorities, my target group and the community in general about the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) program related to the empowerment and improvement of women’s capacities to take a more active and efficient role in their communal councils. Here are some of the challenges I faced, the actors who were involved, and how we turned these challenges into opportunities.
1. Authority intervention during the community meeting
In one of the communities, the elected women and I had to stop to running the meetings after we had started to conduct the mapping activities with the people because I got so many calls from the local authority leaders of that commune.
We apologized to the community members that we had to stop the meeting to go and see the Caïd (local representative of the administration). We informed the community members that we had taken all the necessary legal steps in organizing that meeting. Once we met the Caïd and explained to him who we were and the work of HAF, he welcomed us and appreciated the good initiative that HAF is part of.
From this experience, I understood very clearly why I have to carry with me all the documents related to the status of the Foundation to share with the authorities if they ask for it. I also learned what my rights are and what they are based on.
2. How to come to compromise between different priorities within the same group and how to make the participants listen to each preferred priority
In a community meeting there was a dispute about the individual priorities. Everyone thought he/she was right and nobody was ready to listen to others’ views.
In order to overcome this problem, we gave everyone a chance to express him/herself and the reason why s/he wanted their particular priority. We then asked those present to repeat what s/he had said. They didn’t have to accept each other’s ideas and preferences, but they had to consider and understand them.
I learned from this experience that listening is one of the most important keys to solving conflicts of priorities.
3. One of the elected women got frustrated after she felt herself unable to write a proposal. How did I deal with this situation?
She was expecting me to write the proposal for her, but our aim is not to write project proposals for a community but rather to build their capacities and help them to become writers themselves. Through this program of training-by-doing, HAF seeks to build the women’s capacities and help them to write project documents themselves. I showed this woman the way to do it and I gave her an example, indicating that we would be organizing a 1 day workshop to provide further assistance on writing project proposals.
In this case, I remember the Chinese proverb that says “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime."
All in all, at the High Atlas Foundation, we always want people to be actors of the sustainable development (not just a solution for today) by taking the initiative to solve their own problems and feel more responsible about it.
by Malika Kassi, HAF Site Manager