By Gal Kramarski
About 70 km away from Marrakech, in one of the villages of Setti Fatma commune, several young girls are looking for ways to fulfill their dreams. “I can visualize my future, but I do not know the way I should take to reach there.” Indeed it seems as some of them have a clear vision of what they want to do when they grow up, or who they want to be in the future, however, as they say, they need someone to show them the way. They grew up together, they know each other the best, and they are willing to help one another in achieving their goals. They are highly motivated, and believe in themselves; their dreams my seem modest, and so may be their hopes and demands. All they ask for is to gain the right tools to break the walls that are keeping them away from being who they wish to be.
The chosen baker
She is 16 years old, and an excellent baker. The minute we entered her family’s house, they poured us sweet tea, and offered her wonderful pastries. She dropped out of the education system after completing primary school. She says she does not regret it, because she wants to be a famous baker, and wishes to invest all her time in that. “I want everyone to know me, I want to sell my pastries all over, and become very famous. I enjoy baking for my family, and people in my village, but I would like to succeed outside as well.” She wants to become independent, and fulfill her dream; all she needs is the right plan and the right tools. Her reality is now changing. She was recently set up for engagement to a person she never met. Her father and uncle met his father, and suggested her. All she has is one picture of him, she does not know his age, she never met him in person, and yet one could tell she is extremely excited about him, and about the whole idea of changing her status. She was the one to be chosen, from many other girls in her village. She knows that if she rejects the offer, some other girl would quickly take it. You can tell she is happy, she is full with dreams and hopes, which might explode in her face in any minute, since her future is very vague. She knows she has to adapt to the situation, as she understands she is not completely free to make her own choices in this realm. Yet she is super optimistic, and very much happy. It is her time; she is the one they chose.
The ambitious doctor
From all the girls in her village, she is the only one to attend secondary school. When we asked her what is her vision, she said she would like to learn different languages, starting with English, as she wishes to complete university studies. She wants to study medicine, and to become a doctor. We asked the older women why is she the only girl to attend secondary school, and they said she is an exceptional in their village. Most girl are not allowed to attend secondary schools due to several reasons. First, secondary schools are usually regional, and are located far away from the village. Most families are afraid that their girls will be raped on their way to school. Second, if a family can afford higher education for a child, they would prefer sending their sons, and not daughters. Hence, there are no classes only for girls (there are not enough girls to open a separate class), and most families would not like their daughters to attend a co-ed classroom. Families fear for their daughters, and this holds them back from becoming more educated and independent. One could tell this girl and her family are indeed unique in that sense, she gets the full support of her family to fulfill her dream. She is willing to invest time and efforts in learning English, mathematics, and more, in order to be able to attend university. They help her every day to get to school, and she takes it in both hands. She knows she is exceptional, and appreciates the opportunity.
The talented teacher
The student’s younger cousin is ten years old. You can notice she is a very clever girl. She is extremely curious about our workshop and asks to join and listen. Her dream is to become a teacher one day. Arabic is her second language, she learned it at school, and can now speak it fluently. She is only ten years old, but takes very seriously her studies. She knows she wants to attend secondary school, and hopes her family will let her. On the second day of the workshop, I told her she could join us, but she said she had to finish her tasks for school before. For now, she practices being the “teacher” of the younger kids in her village, teaching them Arabic, helping them to read and write. You can see how they follow her; they listen and learn.
The brave artist
Another girl shared with the group that she knows she is really good at sewing and that she would like to establish a cooperative for sewing and other artisanal products. For the first time she stood in front of the women of her village, and asked for their help. You could see she is shaking, this is the first time she stands and asks for help. She knows that only with the support of the older generation, their knowledge, and assets, she can succeed. You could tell she is excited and nervous to speak in front of them, but she did it, and with pride. As mentioned before, this young woman also has a clear vision of her wanted future. However, she has no clue of how she could make it come true.
There are many other examples, telling the stories of other girls in this village, which show that these girls know they can live their lives differently. Nevertheless, not all stories were as optimistic as the ones mentioned above. These young girls understand perfectly their role in their homes, and their community. They “play by the rules”, and respect them. However, they ask for a better future for themselves, and their mothers are there to support them. With the right tools, and that one push they need, they could make a real change not only in their own lives, but also in lives of others who watch and learn from them. They are young, talented, and for now, their main concern in life is helping their mothers within the household. They cannot wait to exit these borders (let them be physical or conceptual), become more independent and follow their humble dreams.