Today on March 8 is International Women’s Day! This day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. International Women’s Day (IWD) has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere.
This year on IWD we collectively call for a gender-balanced world. We can help forge a more gender-balanced world by celebrating women’s achievement, raising awareness against bias and take action for equality. The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) has been working in the field of women’s empowerment since 2011. Targeting women corresponds with the global understanding of women’s important role in creating sustainable development and promoting community growth.
An assessment conducted by HAF in 2017 in the Al Haouz region showed that over ninety-four percent of ninety-three participating women, had before never heard about Moudawana. Most communities indicated that they felt left behind; that national processes and changes hardly reached remote areas, and that even if they were aware of their rights, they felt they could not secure them (full study available). This highlights the importance of empowering women especially from remote, marginalized communities.
Working with the Middle East Partnership Initiative, HAF first built capacities in participatory planning with elected women to municipal councils in the Rhamna province. The HAF’s women’s empowerment workshops (2016-2017), funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, have now evolved into a rights-based approach. Using three complementary activities, HAF aims to create agents of social change with university students and rural women. Our empowerment program reduces barriers to manifest women’s place as pillars of society. The three activities and their objectives are:
- “Imagine’” is a self-discovery workshop developed at the Empowerment Institute in the United States. Throughout the personal growth process, we assist women in finding their voices and achieving their goals.
- Integrated with “Imagine” is ‘Moudawana’ (2004), based on a rights-based approach, bringing together women to learn about legal protections and determine ways to further social justice.
- Cooperative-building grows from empowerment gained during the “Imagine-Moudawana” experience and supports women’s cooperatives and their development to create greater financial independence, expand networks, and promote change in women’s roles in their communities.
This program has now evolved into HAF fostering a network of empowered agents of change, who support women in achieving their rights.
The purpose of the Empowerment Workshop is to enable participants to create the life they most want. It is considered one of the foremost personal growth trainings available.
Using above mentioned activities HAF aims to create agents of social change with university students and rural women. In addition HAF aims to strengthens women as rights holders by providing tools to advocate and act on their needs and goals.
To date four-hundred and sixty women benefited from Imagine empowerment workshops, from the Provinces of Al Haouz, Boujdour, Tinghir, Marrakech and Oujda region. From them, ten female university students received training for trainers to become facilitators of empowerment programs. The results were demonstrated when beneficiaries undertook to create cooperatives and self-employment initiatives. A group of thirty-five women addressed illiteracy by hiring a female university student and starting a literacy program in their village. Participants who attended the training are supporting their children’s education. Sixty-five women joined parent associations and are actively involved in efforts to improve local schools.
Testimonials from workshops are profound, including:
- « I’ve never had such an opportunitiy as this. we need such exercises to listen to our inner voice and deliefs. »
- « I promise myself to look for a dormitory school to complete my studies. »
- « as a widow woman with two kids, I didn’t have the courage to ask anyone for work. »
- « As a mother of three I have been busy working at home for many years. Now I am able to participate in empowerment training that helps me to discover that I have great capacities and skills that I truly mould like to use outside of the house. »
- « I am earning money to live a better life ».
Collective action and shared ownership for driving gender parity is what makes International Women’s Day successful. Gloria Steinem, world-renowned feminist, journalist and activist once explained « The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights. » Therefore the High Atlas Foundation calls on everyone of you: Make International Women’s Day your day and do what you can to truly make a positive difference for women!