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17 05, 2019

HAPPY RAMADAN FROM TALAINT AND ANAMER

2019-05-17T17:20:44+02:00

By Houria Chouhab
HAF Volunteer

On the 10th of May, Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir, HAF’s President, and the HAF team visited two villages in the High Atlas mountains not far from the Red City: Talaint and Anamer, which are two villages of the Setti Fatma Commune. HAF’s team had the pleasure to be accompanied by Aysha Follard, Programs Manager at World Challenge UK. Aysha’s purpose of visiting Anamer was to identify local Moroccan communities where British youth can volunteer to make meaningful contributions.


Our first stop was in Talaint, where we conducted the last women’s empowerment workshop (for more insight, read our blog “It rains empowerment in Talaint”). When I stepped out of the car, the first thing that grabbed my attention was three men making Shbakia (Moroccan pastry sweets) in a roadside café. In our culture, it is known that Shbakia is made by women and, thus, to see men making it in a rural area was surprising. One of the men works alongside his wife in the café-restaurant. He is an example of an empathetic and open-minded husband who believes in the values of cooperation within the institution of marriage. He exuberated kindness and peace, making it irresistible to buy their sweets as a reward for his infinite amiability and, of course, for our families during Ramadan.

We then met with a group of men from the community. Abdeljalil, HAF’s Field Coordinator, was waiting with them and discussed agriculture challenges in their region. Notably, from May until the end of summer, most women in this region spend their time at the Làazib (humble summer homes), shepherds stone huts, and walled enclosures for livestock, all located at high elevations in the mountains and which take hours to reach. These mountain slopes serve as summer pasture-lands belonging to the communities.


These men have previously benefited from planting 4,000 plants of almond, olive, and carob trees in their agricultural terraces. Their only and current challenge is irrigation; they have a source of water, but they lack the pipes to pass the water to the trees. To buy these necessary pipes, they need to provide 30,000 DH, but unfortunately, they cannot afford it. “I can hardly provide my family with food, let alone contributing to get the needed amount of money to buy the pipes,” one man said

Water is essential for the life of these trees. In order to preserve plant life, the local population collects water from the spring using animals as a means of transportation. It is a tiring job to do every day, but the joy when harvesting the crops makes them forget the pain of the process.
Before moving to the next step, the men asked Mr. Ben-Meir to provide them with more carob and olive trees to plant in nearby land of which everybody has a share. Although the trees take years to grow, they want younger generations to have local natural resources to make use of. It is interesting that while these men have needs in the present, they are also thoughtful of the needs that will arise in the future.
In this visit, HAF provided the men with fig and carob trees. Youth, adults, and elderly men all participated in planting the trees.

It is important to have many development programmes in the same area, for it allows it to improve more rapidly and bring about qualitative outcomes. Talaint’s population benefited from both women’s empowerment workshops and organic agriculture initiatives, and the best is yet to come.
After the trees were planted, we met with a newly established women’s cooperative in Anamer village. This cooperative is the outcome of HAF’s women’s empowerment “Imagine” workshop that was conducted in the region one year ago for 30 beneficiaries. It consists of eight members who make traditional carpets. Eight women out of the 30 who attended Imagine were able to successfully establish their cooperative. Their number may seem small, but it is a huge step for these women to get out of their houses and spend the day working for their cooperative. Men in this area can be very strict regarding females’ agency in the community. For example, girls are not allowed to pursue their studies and are likely to marry under the age of 18; when they are married, they are not allowed to go anywhere without their husbands. This is the common ideology of men in the community, however, fortunately, it is gradually disappearing among the young adults who believe in equality between the two sexes, and who seek to change cultural gender norms in Anammer.

As a young woman who enjoys learning from others’ experiences in life, it was a pleasure to talk to these women and listen to their wise words as well as to understand how they spend their daily lives in Anamer. Additionally, I it was a pleasure to talk to girls who were younger than me and to get to know their humble ambitions. These are some examples of the good things one can experience with HAF: spending time with people from different walks of life and learning how to appreciate what you have.

Happy Ramadan!

HAPPY RAMADAN FROM TALAINT AND ANAMER 2019-05-17T17:20:44+02:00
15 05, 2019

WOMEN’S IMPRESSIONS ON THE LAST DAY OF AN EMPOWERMENT WORKSHOP

2019-05-15T13:28:12+02:00

By Houria CHOUHAB
HAF volunteer

One of my favorite activities to attend with HAF facilitators is women’s empowerment workshops. You can notice the difference between the first day and the last day in their behaviors, voices tones, body language, and the sparkle of their eyes.
On last Saturday, April 27th, I joined Empowerment Trainer, Ibtissam Niri, in a workshop she started two weeks ago for women in Ait Ourir. This village is 33 kilometers from Marrakech and it is surrounded by the Atlas mountains, giving this place a special charm. It was the first time I went there but it was not that hard to adjust to its atmosphere and establish good connections with the women. Although I did not attend the earlier sessions of this workshop, I had the pleasure to be present on the last day and quickly integrated with the attendees.

The session was introduced with the women’s impressions about the impact the workshop is having on them since the first day. What grabbed my attention is the declaration of a young lady who explained how much time she used to waste on social media doing nothing. For that reason she decided, on the first day she attended these workshops, to delete her Facebook and Instagram accounts. Furthermore, she stated that she is using her time now to study what she has been always dreaming to study and is giving now much more time to her husband and children.
Another girl, Karima, expressed how thankful she is for the change she is experiencing right now: “Now I am much more convinced that  I have to stop caring about what other people think in order for me to live a peaceful life.” Her sister, Khadija, noticed this change: “I can see the difference in my sister now, she is getting out of her cave and giving herself a chance to live.”
Many women in Morocco, commonly in rural areas, give much attention to what others say, and may even abandon whatever they want to do in order to avoid society’s opinion. Therefore, it is important for these women to BELIEVE that people will talk anyway, so it is better to give them a real reason to talk about them.
Unfortunately, the source of this underestimation is the patriarchal society we live in. If we take the mere example when the man wants to give a gift to his wife or any closer female, he would surely buy her something related to kitchen or house materials. Another reason why women are “underestimated” in our society is this new female generation that is growing up. Girls do everything to impress men and marry them, and cooking is at the top of the activities they do, believing that the easiest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. They start giving the men too much attention which is not required at all, for the nature of human beings tends to stay away from all kinds of exaggeration.

Women need to learn to give themselves the care, love, and attention they give to others, and this is the ultimate goal of HAF through these workshops. The participants admitted to the errors they commit toward themselves and are willing to change. “ I have never imagined myself sitting on the same chair for the whole day. This describes my strong will and desire to change the way I behave or treat myself as well as the way I envision the future,” said Hayat, the president of ANMOUN Association for development, where the workshop was conducted.

Some of the participants answering some questions

I believe that women’s empowerment workshops should be conducted throughout all Morocco, cities and countrysides, in order to achieve wider human development.

WOMEN’S IMPRESSIONS ON THE LAST DAY OF AN EMPOWERMENT WORKSHOP 2019-05-15T13:28:12+02:00
10 05, 2019

WE ARE IN ABOGHLOU COOPERATIVE!

2019-05-10T12:39:51+02:00

By Sanae Benaadim
HAF Volunteer

One month of my volunteer experience at the High Atlas Foundation has already passed!

I had my second chance to accompany Amina El Hajjami, Director of Projects, to facilitate a workshop for 29 women of the Aboghlou Cooperative. This two-day workshop took place in the Ourika Valley, which is 30 kilometers outside of Marrakech. At the entrance of the cooperative, different products line the shelves, telling stories of the women’s hard work.

The first day of the workshop entailed reviewing the definition of a cooperative and its seven principles: 1) optional membership open to all; 2) democratic management of a cooperative; 3) economic contribution of members; 4) self-management and autonomy; 5) cooperation between cooperatives; 6) commitment to society; and 7) training and information. Most participants’ answers demonstrated a sufficient understanding of these concepts. To ensure comprehension, Amina used pictures of the cooperative’s seven principles to help women have a clear vision and perception of the principles. She also conducted a practice training, which consisted of creating four groups. Each group included at least one woman with literacy skills to write. After 30 minutes, the four groups had a discussion together. The women showed that they are ambitious and aspire for better conditions to work productively. The following are some of their identified goals:

  • Increase the cooperative’s membership
  • Create branches for Aboghlou Cooperative in the region of Marrakech-Safi
  • Be open to considering membership for youth who hold higher education degrees
  • Contribute to charity

The following day was amazing in how Amina facilitated the training. First, she used Amazigh traditional music to implement an icebreaker, which I think was helpful to revive the women’s energy and to kickoff the day with a good start. The activity entailed participants making pairs whenever the music stopped. Then, partners were to make eye contact and listen to each other’s answers to a question posed by Amina. Amina and I presented an example in front of the participants in order to explain the icebreaker properly. It was intiially difficult for the women to learn the exercise, but they came to understand and enjoy it through practice.

Nowadays, there is a lack of listening and making eye contact with others. It is rare for people to maintain eye contact for one minute. This may relate to different reasons, including cultural norms and tradition. For example, when an elder speaks (e.g., a father), it is a sign of respect to avoid eye contact. I believe that we can change this traditional behavior by addressing it within families, encouraging them to practice eye contact while listening to one another.
There are six international methods of practicing positive communication:

  • Breathe
  • Facts
  • Feelings
  • Needs
  • Find solutions
  • Conclusion

One of HAF’s objectives for doing this workshop with Aboghlou is to empower the women to develop their cooperative, establish suitable work conditions, and promote positive communication between the members.

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WE ARE IN ABOGHLOU COOPERATIVE! 2019-05-10T12:39:51+02:00
8 05, 2019

PRESENTING AT THE FORUM : « ECONOMY AND COMPETITIVENESS OF THE MEDITERRANEAN »

2019-05-09T17:26:49+02:00

Clarisse ESPIL
Intern at the HAF

On Monday, the 29th of April, the HAF was invited to the « Economy and Competitiveness of the Mediterranean » forum as part of the Summit of the Two Rivers. This forum was organised by the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (EESC). The challenges concerned economic development but also competitiveness in the countries of the western Mediterranean. Many representatives of civil society from the 5+5 dialogue were present, which allowed for debate and the implementation of concrete initiatives on both sides. The initiatives are also regional, as some of them will help to develop entrepreneurship, the social economy and innovation.
Errachid Montassir (HAF project manager) presented the High Atlas Foundation’s project, which is an agricultural initiative with an environmental approach and will enable women in rural areas of the to market their products and learn how to do so. The benefit will go to these women who will be able to make a living from the sale of organic fruit trees, medicinal herbs, and processed product. However, this trade will have an impact on the other side as raw and processed products at attractive prices and high quality will be sold on the European market. In addition, a sale of carbon credits may be set up between the two shores.
The main point is also to obtain organic certifications so that these women can be considered as full-fledged organic companies. During this forum, we heard many projects that were all innovative and encouraging. However, not all projects can be implemented, and only projects that appear to be concrete can be implemented. That is why the day was divided into two stages. During the morning, all the projects were briefly presented, and a debate was initiated for each theme. As for the afternoon, all the projects were divided into thematic workshops, which made us meet in small groups with projects that could more or less join our own.
Knowing that the purpose of this forum is to ideally achieve that all projects are carried out, or at least that all participants benefit from it, we tried during these workshops to find common ground between all our projects and to find innovative ideas to link them together. At the end of this workshop, we had to vote for the projects that seemed to us to be the most easily achievable and concrete. The final projects will be selected at the Summit of the two shores, which will take place on June 24 in Marseille.
With regard to the project: « A Moroccan organic farming initiative for the whole Mediterranean », it was perfectly defended during the « social economy » workshop and we believe that several projects of this session will be able to be connected to each other, including ours, which will considerably advance our project. The HAF initiative was concrete, which puts us in a good position among the projects that will be presented on June 24 at the Summit of the two shores.

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PRESENTING AT THE FORUM : « ECONOMY AND COMPETITIVENESS OF THE MEDITERRANEAN » 2019-05-09T17:26:49+02:00
6 05, 2019

ADVANCING WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT AND ENVIRONMENT CONSERVATION IN TASSA OUIRGANE

2019-05-09T17:30:19+02:00

By Elouahsoussi Rachid
HAF Volunteer

On the 9th of April, the High Atlas Foundation team visited the Village of Tassa Ouirgane (in the Al Haouz province) in order to conduct environmental activities with women and children. Girls and women, who are planning their own cooperative for medicinal plants and local natural products, are highly motivated for their project. The village residents warmly welcomed the HAF team and prepared a delicious breakfast made from local products. The participants that day, in addition to 41 women and girls, included 25 boys as well as men, and their civil association representatives.
The first activity during the fruitful visit to Tassa Ouirgane was an interactive session led by Amina El Hajjami, the HAF Director of Projects. The session was about the importance of preserving the environment. Amina started by attempting to define the term “environment” interactively with the ideas of mainly school children. Amina highlighted the components of the environment (trees, water, air, soil, etc) and the dangers that threaten their sustainability. School children suggested a list of irresponsible acts and threats that endanger the environment specifically in their area. These include: cutting trees, soil degradation, urbanisation, and others.
Amina highlighted certain actions that are in favour of preserving the environment and helping to guarantee its sustainability. The school children suggested a number of them, including: collecting waste and recycling, respecting the environmental regulations, and organising educational campaigns. Finally, Amina did an overall evaluation of the session with the groups. Women and schoolchildren each talked about the importance of what they learned and its relationship to their daily lives.

The practical action of the environmental session involved the entire community collecting trash and waste in the village.  The objective of this activity is to sensitize the people about the danger of waste to the environment. Trash and waste were collected in various places including the centre of the village, the farms and school, and next to the river. Four mobile containers for waste were provided by the High Atlas Foundation (funded by the United Nations Development Program) as part of the environmental partnership with the Association of Tassa Ouirgane. Youth and adults were happy and motivated throughout the process of the collection.
Finally, Amina El Hajjami, facilitated a session about composting and waste management. Amina demonstrated how to make natural fertilizers out of bio-degradable waste. Waste management via composting involves the use of foliage, tree parts, grass, and animals’ waste. The day’s activities were of great added value for all participants in terms of environmental education and the collective action in favour of achieving sustainable human development.

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ADVANCING WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT AND ENVIRONMENT CONSERVATION IN TASSA OUIRGANE 2019-05-09T17:30:19+02:00
29 04, 2019

RURAL WOMEN ACHIEVE THEIR SELF-EMPOWERMENT IN TAALANIT VILLAGE

2019-05-09T17:32:51+02:00

By Sanae Benaadim
HAF Volunteer

On April 4th, HAF and local Moroccan women embarked on a new, exciting adventure!  HAF’s team, including Fatima Zahra Laaribi, Amina El Hajjami, Houria Chouhab, Martine Roberts, and myself, went to Taalanit, a small village located in the Setti Fadma commune of the Al Haouz Province. As we approached the hillside, we passed by fascinating landscapes riddled with marvelous changing colors.

Amina does room exercises with the rural women

The first day of the Imagine four-day empowerment workshop began by meeting the rural women next to a local café. It was facilitated by Amina  EL Hajjami, HAF’s Director of Projects. Amina led this training, with the aim to help women of Taalanit empower themselves and better their livelihoods.
Amina started the workshop in the local language of Tashelheit with a brainstorming activity of introductions, challenges, motivation, and available solutions. This method had an effective way of breaking the ice with the 46 participants aged between 16 and 60 years old, most of whom do not speak Arabic. Although there were no responses at first, caused by a lack of understanding regarding new concepts and words such as “training,” one woman had the courage to take initiative in answering some questions. As a result, others were encouraged to participate in the discussion as well.

Amina conducts the training for rural women under the shining sun.

As discussions unfolded, women spoke up about the different factors controlling them, such as traditional rituals and social norms in their community. The following statements particularly caught my attention:

  • “Whatever we do, men do not give verbal recognition of our hard work.”
  • “When [men] just speak, we fear.”
  • “We are selling ourselves to men.”
  • “Men are not normal if they help their wives.”

In my opinion, male domination is highly prevalent; they have the upper hand in rural areas of Morocco. I have been told that most rural Moroccan women have only two advances in life: the first is to move from their parents’ house to their husband’s; the second is from their husband’s house to the grave.
The second day of the training was a surprise to us as the participants enthusiastically arrived full of wonder and ready to explore. This time, they had the will and passion to make progress in their lives. Amina led a “room exercise” for determining the women’s weaknesses and strengths. We found that sources of personal power are committment, discipline, inner guidance, a support system, lightness, love, and finding your own truth. Additionally, any activity we need to accomplish requires the power of imagination, which fosters passion to achieve dreams and, thus, leads to happiness.

Women gather in a circle to discuss their change of attitude after Day 1 of the workshop.

Education is also very important in life. Notably, I observed that in every meeting we facilitated, most women we spoke with asked about education. Especially after learning more about Amina’s academic and professional experiences, participants developed a strong belief in a need to be educated in order to get a job and earn money of their own.

One of HAF’s important objectives is to empower rural women, guide them in having a clear vision of their lives, and to make a positive impact on them. It is often difficult for others, particularly men, to have insight into the value of women’s daily work both inside and outside of the house. The participants had voiced this value as a result of the workshop, and affirmed that if they give themselves value, then men will do the same.
Before leaving Taalanit, we asked the women what they learned from the empowerment training to which we received many positive responses. One participant said, “Unlike the past, our eyes and brains are opened now.”

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RURAL WOMEN ACHIEVE THEIR SELF-EMPOWERMENT IN TAALANIT VILLAGE 2019-05-09T17:32:51+02:00
26 04, 2019

A DIVERSE CONSTELLATION OF PROJECTS IN MOROCCO

2019-05-09T17:36:18+02:00

French version

Dear Friends,

My name is Martine Roberts and I am the newest member of the Board of the High Atlas Foundation (HAF). I am writing to you from Marrakech, Morocco, where I have spent the last month immersing myself in HAF’s mission and current initiatives. As a Moroccan-American woman, I am honored and grateful to be a part of this wonderful organization and I would love to take this opportunity to share my experiences from the last month with you and to invite you to participate to expand our reach and impact.
HAF is involved in a diverse constellation of projects throughout Morocco to initiate and support societal and environmental changes through the education of the members of rural communities. HAF works to teach the value of sustainability and participation in society to empower community members to improve their own living conditions

Field visit to a future tree nursery site.

I had the privilege to visit a few rural primary schools where a team from HAF taught the children the environmental impact of trees in the biosphere. These sessions culminated with the planting of dozens of endemic trees in the schools’ courtyards, provided for free by HAF’s nurseries. The excitement of the children was palpable as they know the trees will not only beautify their playgrounds but also provide shade, oxygen, and delicious food including almonds, pomegranates, and olives.

Planting an argan tree at a primary school, partnering with FRÉ.

In addition to improving the natural environment, HAF is taking an active role to challenge existing societal preconceptions about the role of women in the social hierarchy. The rate of literacy of the women in the rural areas served by the foundation is the lowest among the population. To combat this reality, HAF has adapted a program for local women and girls called “Imagine” that utilizes workshops to instill practical and vocational skills to build self-confidence, to foster self-worth, and promote self-discovery among women and girls in the community.
I am pleased to report that the dozens of workshops have taken place and are making a positive impact in the community. It will take time, but these workshops serve a dual purpose. First, they inculcate the belief among rural women and girls that they are individuals with unique talents, desires, rights, and agency. Second, they educate men about the importance of female rights.

The first carpet woven by a new women’s cooperative at Anamer village, Al Haouz province

HAF is laying the groundwork to help improve the economic capacities and standing of women, to grow their confidence as active participants in their families and society, and to reduce societal ills such as early and/or forced marriage.
HAF is a cross-border foundation between the USA and Morocco. The foundation’s goals have been constant since 2000, when it was created by former Peace Corps Volunteers aiming to make sustainable prosperity a reality by training communities to integrate a participatory, agency-based empowerment approach into human development initiatives in Morocco.

Village children singing a heartfelt song of thanks at the end of the visit by Brooke Isham, USAID’s Mission Director, students at University Cadi Ayyad’s Career Center, and HAF’s team.

HAF relies exclusively on grants from international organizations, companies, and individuals. It is only with this support that HAF is able to continue its project of empowerment for the underprivileged youth, men, and women of rural Morocco.
For this reason, I would love to invite you to make a donation to HAF via our website, where you have the option to choose, should you wish, which causes you would like your donation to go to.

Thank you,

Martine Roberts

Board Member, High Atlas Foundation
haf@highatlasfoundation.org

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P.S.: If you live in Morocco or are planning a trip to visit in the future, we would welcome the opportunity to show you what the impact of your contribution looks like on the ground.

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A DIVERSE CONSTELLATION OF PROJECTS IN MOROCCO 2019-05-09T17:36:18+02:00
26 04, 2019

IT RAINS EMPOWERMENT IN TALAINT

2019-05-09T17:40:26+02:00

By Houria CHOUHAB
HAF Volunteer

On the 4th of April, a team from HAF conducted a four days workshop in Talaint, in the Setti Fatma Commune. It was raining so heavily that we thought women would not attend the workshop, but they proved us wrong when half of the women were already there and the other half started to show up over the next hour. In the end, they were about 46 women attending the workshop.


As in any Moroccan region, we were welcomed by a nice breakfast which we shared with the women before Amina Hajami, Director of Projects at HAF, started the workshop. The purpose of this session in the first place was to get the women to understand the maximum of concepts that would widen their vision.
In the beginning, women were asked about the meaning of the term “self-empowerment”, but none of them heard of the word before. At that moment, the facilitator knew that she had to change the strategy and to simplify the notions according to their level of understanding. Amina started from the bottom up and brainstormed their notions about self-empowerment and training.
The purpose of this four-day workshop is to get these women out of their comfort zone first and then to empower them to rely on themselves, but most importantly, to help these women create the life they want, not the one the society wants them to live. Additionally, these women can learn how to progress and take steps forward, and this can only be achieved through work, hand-in-hand. We can compare this four-day experience to a trip, and one of the best tips is to enjoy a trip is a good company, and with these women, we can make the best outcome out of this training.


In the past, women didn’t have many rights as they have nowadays. For example, in this village, as in other villages in High Atlas, it was believed that a woman travels only twice in her life: the first trip is from her parent’s house to her husband’s, and the second one is from her husband’s house to the cemetery. We can feel the amount of unfairness towards women.
However, women still care less about what they want, and they give priority to what their men want. One of these women even mentioned a very dangerous belief that prevails in the area. She stated that marriage is about selling themselves to their husbands more than starting an institution where love, respect and understanding dominate.  For that reason, it was important to remind these women that a wife is a blessing as long as she is able to educate the man and change his bad habits, as well as reminding them that they are equal to man and no one is superior to the other.
The facilitator deduced then that these women need to be empowered in seven areas in their lives:

  • Feelings
  • Relations
  • Work
  • Money
  • Spirituality
  • Marital Relationship
  • Body

One of the effective keys to reach one’s goals is to project one’s self in the future implementing the desired image. The women were asked to project themselves in the future doing what they aspire to do. It was a simple exercise that brought them a big relief. One of the women’s dreams was to travel to Marrakech. She was asked to imagine that she has all that it takes to go there. Enjoy the trip!
Still giving the tips to empower one’s self, Amina mentioned the importance of Motivation and how it helps to reach the goals. Motivation can take different images according to our personalities; some see motivation in the family’s encouragement and love, other women find motivation in the honesty of the others. These motivational factors make us feel powerful and thus reach what we want. “I feel empowered and motivated when I see my children growing and doing what I could not do.” Seeing their children reaching their goals gives the women the courage to move forward.
At the end of this discussion, women did some relaxation exercises, in the middle of which they were asked to imagine themselves walking through a big palace with seven doors that represent the seven areas of empowerment. Each time they enter from a door, they meet someone, see landscapes or hear voices. At the end of the exercises, they were supposed to translate what they experienced into drawings.


In the next week, women were introduced to three new areas that necessitate empowerment; body, money, and love. A woman’s body is an important unit to empower and take care of. Thus, it was crucial to explain to these women how to protect and provide it with all the good conditions that guarantee to have a healthy body. Having a peaceful mind, taking good care of one’s mind, avoiding overthinking, sharing one’s sorrows with people you trust, finding suitable solutions to big problems were all suggestions given by the women in order to have a sound body. The same procedure was applied to the other two topics in which women participated and interacted for the purpose of having a clearer vision of what they want.


The good thing by which you measure the impact of these empowerment workshops is the engagement and interaction you begin to notice among the women, and which was almost absent on the first day. You can hear this difference in their voice’s tones when they intensely participate in the discussions and the exercises. These women last day’s impressions can be compared to the students’ facial expressions when assimilating a lesson after a hard effort done by the teacher.

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IT RAINS EMPOWERMENT IN TALAINT 2019-05-09T17:40:26+02:00
25 04, 2019

THE ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGE IN AÏT OURIR

2019-05-10T16:19:35+02:00

Clarisse ESPIL and Kerstin Opfer

This Friday, April 13, the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) team composed of Kerstin Opfer (operations manager), Errachid Montassir (project manager), Ilyas Dkhrissi (social network manager, photographer and film director), Hassan Ait Ouatouch (coordinator between the HAF and local populations) and myself (intern at the HAF), went to Aït Ourir. We were accompanied by Jeneva Craig (Backup Program Officer, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs), who is currently working for the U.S. Department of States and was travelling through Morocco for a week to visit all U.S. funded programs she oversees including the Small Grants Program of the HAF. The Small Grants Program aims to promote public participation in environmental decision-making, through providing a total of four small grants of no more than USD 50,000 to civil society organizations in Jordan and Morocco. Small grants were awarded for proposals focusing on educational and awareness-raising activities that engage a broad range of stakeholders and promote interactions between local authorities and civil society.

In the morning, we visited one of the Moroccan winners of the environmental challenge the Future Association for Development and Work Camps (AFCD) in Ait Ourir. AFCD aims to improve local waste management in 6 regions of Al Haouz though connecting the “top-down” officials and the “bottom-up” civic society by engaging them in a variety of collaborative workshops.
Firstly, AFCD organized a meeting with the city council during which we discussed the current state of Aït Ourir’s waste management and sewage system. The two vice presidents of the city council identified the lack of urban planning as the main reason for the underdeveloped systems related to waste and sewage. Furthermore, they mentioned that environmental protection has very low priority for them and the local population because there are much bigger issues to combat first. Many households still don’t have electricity or running water, which understandably is more important to the inhabitants of Ait Ourir and surroundings.
After this meeting, we headed to the Bridge Center and Youth Center in Aït Ourir. We were able to see the different rooms (activity room, stage, music room). Kamal Akaya (President of AFCD) explained to us for  how long AFCD had existed and why they felt the need for this new association. AFCD was founded in a time where civic engagement was largely dominated by older people, who thought their opinions were more valid than those of younger people. AFCD aimed to engage younger people to be active citizens and used new methodologies and approaches  like capacity building, advocacy, campaigning and social media. Their main focus is on increasing environmental education and changing behaviours towards the ones that benefit and protect the environment. This includes teaching school children how to compost and recycle, planting trees and creating green spaces and advocating for a higher priority of environmental topics in people’s minds. Furthermore, AFCD focuses on teaching young people and adults transferable skills like languages, project management, and leadership. Even though the environment still is not one of the highest priorities in citizens minds and therefore environmental interests are not represented well in the city council, AFCD succeeds in involving young people with actions and activities, which gradually allows to evoke the interest of more and more young people. The Small Grants Program gives them the resources to expand their efforts and strengthen environmental protection in Ait Ourir.

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THE ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGE IN AÏT OURIR 2019-05-10T16:19:35+02:00
25 04, 2019

HAF ENABLES DENTAL CARE IN THE MARRAKECH REGION WITH « KIDS »

2019-05-10T16:23:43+02:00

Clarisse ESPIL
intern at the High Atlas Foundation

On Monday, April 22, 2019, the HAF visited three schools in the province of Rhamna in the Marrakech region, two in the commune of Aït Taleb and one in the village of Bouchan, this time with the theme of health. Which subject in particular? The oral health of children in the region, some of whom may require dental care and regular follow-up.

Today’s mission was therefore for dentists on the move to observe the condition of children’s teeth, and to determine whether or not care should be prescribed. This visit therefore made it possible to establish a range of children in need of care. The dentist Dr. Eli Davidyan from « Kids International Dental Services », his wife and their two sons came to Morocco and have been able to examine 600 children (323 boys and 277 girls) in just one day, which shows how successful the day was.

The association had already travelled the day before, this time to the Atlas Mountains. These two visits were a first step in determining what the material and quantity needs would be for the next visit, as the aim was to come back soon for this time to provide care for the children. We had the opportunity to meet with the city’s municipality to discuss the next steps in the process. From this meeting, the idea even emerged of training several people from the village so that they could later perform simple dental treatments themselves, which would allow children to have regular follow-up on their teeth.

This day was quite impressive for me. The dentists observed so many children, that I felt I was witness of a successful challenge but I felt also that this day, and globally the entire project was really going to make a difference for the children of remote villages who will finally be able to benefit from access to proper health, at least for their teeth.

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HAF ENABLES DENTAL CARE IN THE MARRAKECH REGION WITH « KIDS » 2019-05-10T16:23:43+02:00