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From Hopes to Water: Barriers to Girls Fulfilling Their Educational Dreams

By Aira Matin, HAF-UVA Intern

Education in rural Morocco is a work in progress. Building from the core of the community, there is a need for a better investment in education as well as promoting the power of giving girls an education. Yet some communities in rural Morocco often do not see the value in pursuing education for the long term. It is painful, but not uncommon for girls to leave school behind completely, leaving their journey incomplete. 

There is a significant drop in enrollment after both primary and secondary levels of education, with these ages marking a moment where girls are asked to take on more responsibilities as well as more burdens. One of the biggest reasons for these drop-offs are the cultural norms that exist around girls and women. Parents do not see the education of girls as a worthy investment, as it is the boys who are expected to support their parents financially. Instead, they find that they can educate their daughters better at home, such as through agricultural labor rather than in a schoolroom. In addition, the practice of early marriage still persists and is a common reason for a girl as young as fourteen to be taken out of school. These dynamics all stem from parents trying to give their daughters the most secure future possible. 

If parents do commit to sending their girls to school, it is often to an environment that does not always facilitate successful learning. From long distances to and from school, to the dangers of harassment in the classroom, to language barriers for rural girls, there are times where the effort does not seem worth it due to the many obstacles they must overcome. Especially after secondary school, low hopes for achievement keep them from going forward. Education is not just a cultural issue but a structural one. It is a matter of faith and trust in a system to do its duty towards the daughters of their world. 

An additional factor that produces the dropoff rates in girls’ education is the desire for their participation in the rural labor force. The less educated a girl is, the more likely they are to be employed. For parents who are looking for income and sustenance, choosing to not educate their daughters could benefit them in the long run. One of the main activities that girls in rural Morocco undertake is the provision of clean drinking water. A traditionally female task, girls in schools are disproportionately affected by the provision of water as it prevents them from spending more time in school. Not only do they lose out on time in the classroom, the time that they do spend is marked with physical pain and fatigue as well as further psychological effects that keep them from doing their best in school. 

The World Bank notes that investment in the provision of drinking water improves the resources for a household. School enrollment rates for girls have been shown to improve when communities have greater access to water facilities, rather than forcing girls to walk miles for water for hours every day. Thus, there is a clear correlation between the provision of water and girls’ education: the less hours girls spend getting water, the more time they have for going to school. 

The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) understands the value in education for the youth in Morocco, and has been committed to creating a stronger, healthier environment for children. Initiatives such as Sami’s Project and other partnerships have worked to increase water access to rural communities, bringing drinking water into these rural areas and their families. HAF’s Imagine Workshops for women’s empowerment also play a role in the education of girls. In helping women imagine the lives they want to live most, many women support their return to school and become more involved in the quality of education in their communities. HAF has conducted 38 Empowerment Workshops which are 32 hours each. A total of 900 participants, predominantly women, and 245 of them youth, have benefitted from workshops in Marrakech, Al Haouz, Azilal, Boujdour, Essaouira, Mohammedia, Oujda, Taroudant, Magouna, and Sefrou. 

UNICEF believes that “an educated woman has the skills, information and self confidence she needs to be a better parent, worker and citizen.” Thus, the matter of education is also a matter of empowerment for girls and a matter of creating a world where they have all the resources to become the best versions of themselves. 

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