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Women and the Participatory Approach to Achieve Professional Work

 

By Amina El Hajjami, HAF Project Manager

High Atlas Foundation, Marrakesh Office 

8 June, 2017 

Moroccan women play a crucial role in the development of the community on a local and professional level. The progress of a community is directly correlated with the advancement of women and their capability to participate in economic, social and environmental development. Urban women in Morocco have more opportunities to participate in income-generating projects, and therefore have a greater potential to demonstrate their abilities in the work force. On the other hand, most women in rural areas have fewer opportunities to participate economically due to the social pressures found within their communities.

 

The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) has worked alongside and trained 59 women from five villages in the rural Commune, Ourika, since 2015. HAF, partnering with Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) project and PUR Project, has helped to inspire these women to create their own project and realize their ideas.

The participatory approach that HAF uses allows the women of Ourika to not only prioritize their aspirations and while supporting them as they put their ideas into practice. This support comes in the form of, among other things, assisting them with the creation of cooperatives and the commercialization of their products. In the long term, these projects will invest in the overall empowerment and economic self-sufficiency of women through the creation of a green economy. Since the start, HAF has held workshops on the participatory approach, organic agricultural techniques, cooperative training and culinary sessions on couscous preparation using medicinal plants.

 

HAF’s first project meeting with ten women occurred in 2015 with group of women from the Takatert village located in the Ourika Commune of the Al Haouz Province. The first exercise was to draw their project and dreams on paper. At first, most of them laughed at this and replied: "The men cannot achieve anything in Ourika, so how could woman achieve this?” I explained to them that "what they all saw was a dream in the past, and now is a new reality. You could achieve anything if you have the will." I persisted with this concept every week. In every meeting or training, I saw the group grew and eventually we involved more than 50 women from the community.

 High Atlas Foundation has helped women from five villages in the Ourika commune to create the Aboghlou Cooperative and this results of are as follows:

1.      Certificate of approval of the name of the cooperative in Arabic and French

2.      The legal status of the Aboghlou cooperative

3.      The contribution of the Cooperative participants

4.      Open a bank account for the Aboghlou Cooperative and obtain a bank statement

5.      Authorization of local authorities for the creation of the Cooperative

6.      Register the Aboghlou Cooperative at the Primary Court in Marrakech

7.      Share the Cooperative file with Agricultural Center in Tahanaout and the Cooperation Development Office in Marrakech

 

The women of Aboghlou Cooperative have benefited from more than 14 different theory and practice workshops on the participatory approach, organic farming, grafting, compost, information , method of participation in the festival, climate change, team management, financial management, human rights, communication, Imaging women’s empowerment workshop, caravans and leadership. HAF still makes weekly or bi-weekly participatory meetings with the women of the Aboghlou Cooperative over subjects including project development.

 

Women so far have produced several types of couscous with medicinal plant and biscuits, marketed the products on locally, nationally and internationally also started working at the nursery starting in March 2016, planting almond and pomegranate trees, nigella saliva, cactus, calendula, and medicinal plants.  They have started to harvest calendula, nigella Sativa, and verbena.

 

Women so far have produced several types of couscous with medicinal plant and biscuits, marketed the products on locally, nationally and internationally also started working at the nursery starting in March 2016, planting almond and pomegranate trees, nigella saliva, cactus, calendula, and medicinal plants.  They have started to harvest calendula, nigella Sativa, and verbena.

 

Women so far have produced several types of couscous with medicinal plant and biscuits, marketed the products on locally, nationally and internationally also started working at the nursery starting in March 2016, planting almond and pomegranate trees, nigella saliva, cactus, calendula, and medicinal plants.  They have started to harvest calendula, nigella Sativa, and verbena.

Women so far have produced several types of couscous with medicinal plant and biscuits, marketed the products on locally, nationally and internationally also started working at the nursery starting in March 2016, planting almond and pomegranate trees, nigella saliva, cactus, calendula, and medicinal plants.  They have started to harvest calendula, nigella Sativa, and verbena.

Continuing environmental activities, HAF dedicated workshops to informing women on the effects of climate change locally and globally and have also prepared them for participation in the 2016 COP 22 in Marrakech. Women participate heavily in the workshop and observed current and future problems concerning the impacts of climate change. The High Atlas Foundation gave six of its members, representing the Aboghlou Cooperative, an opportunity to participate in COP22 between November 7th and 18th, 2016. They presented their products and communicated with national and international organizations, enabling them to exchange ideas and experiences.

 

The women participated in the local festivals in Ourika, Asni, Ait Ourir and COP22.  During the COP22, in the Kenzi Farah Hotel 3, women participated in a WECAN event "Women's Earth & Climate Action Network, International.” The president of the cooperative, Rachida Outouchki, gave a speech in Arabic about the effects of climate change on her community. Two women sang a song in Amazigh, demonstrating their pride and passion they have for their work, as an opening for the event about earth. 

Workshops were held for women to understand the value of organic harvesting, completely eliminating the use of pesticides and chemicals. They learned about the health issues associated with pesticide and herbicide use, such as cancer and osteoporosis. After the classes, women were interviewed and noted that this experience has taught them what it means to work outside of the home. Indirectly correlated, exercise and health were also noted by some as benefits. Before the project’s implementation, it was common to just stay in the home and watch television for many women.

Workshops were also held directing self-identified cultural/social indicators, such as the strength of cooperation and the importance of respect and care for older generations. All of this is done while maintaining traditions, such as making couscous and identifying the purposes of medicinal plants. Women noted these cooperatives provided support, where they are able to bring up their problems and discuss them with other women facing similar issues. The group involves women from different villages, therefore providing them an opportunity to know each other and exchange differences in customs.

Communication between women was noted as a key benefit and helped provide activity outside the home, friendships and personal development. Time management skills were also tackled through these exercises.

Women were no longer speaking of "me" but "we". Friendships formed with several women from different villages taught women to speak for the need of the group rather than just being inwardly focused. One women remarked: "The High Atlas Foundation not only gave to us the opportunity of meeting with each other in the same commune, but now we can communicate with regional, national and international civil societies".  In addition, the cooperation between women provides support both materially and spiritually as they exchange visits in times of illness and joy.

Sustainability and teamwork workshops offered are as follows: what is a work team, what are the requirements for teamwork, what prevents you from working as a team, what difficulties do you encounter in the Aboghlou Cooperative today, and what compromises teamwork? Leadership training includes: what is a leader, what makes a leader, types of leaders, and what is the role of the leader?  Through the answers that I received from women, it appears that the women developed through several stages of growth, and at each stage, there were less and less problems, and thanks to the desire to continue, the group was able to overcome these problems. Before working in the group and creating the Cooperative the women had up to ten problems, often associated with fear.  Before the training when women worked with a group they faced upwards of twelve problems all relating to poor communication. Now just problems regarding finances and equipment for the Cooperative persist and are being addressed through training. In time, workshops and the increased experience of the women will assist them in addressing all of their problems.

 

Economic: The income of the women come from different products, such as different types of couscous and derivatives from wheat, barley, corn as well as biscuits.

 

 

Some income is derived from local sales between families and in the festivals. This project and women's cooperative also unifies families; women noted that they have a goal of being a model to the community, country and the world in terms of women's empowerment. This collective empowers the women to participate in community events like festivals, that weren't originally open to them.

 

Since the women do not have prior experience in managing nurseries and planting trees before joining this project, High Atlas Foundation, YSL, L'Oreal and PUR project all pledged to assist them.  The women of the Cooperative also receive funds from the sale of almond trees and in the future and sell calendula directly to YSL. In May 2017 the women harvest 50 kg of flower of calendula.

The women started the work on their products in parallel work in the legal framework and integrate the women in work of Cooperative.  The women now have an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to exchange information with organizations and a Facebook page under the name Aboughlou Cooperative to help introduce people to the cooperative’s activities and products.

 

The project that High Atlas Foundation managed in the Ourika Commune with the Aboghlou Cooperative has encouraged other women in other villages in the Ourika commune to create their own cooperatives and start their own projects. All of this is an indication of the success that the project of the Aboghlou Cooperative has experienced. 

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