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Reflections of the Empowered

By Charmaine Cacho, HAF-Northwest University student volunteer

It’s a strange feeling, to feel something so strongly from the emotions and words of others while, on the other hand, not knowing what anyone is saying, completely lost in translation. I felt much like the baby who was sitting across the room from me with his mother, staring blankly at me from time to time.

I often wondered what he was thinking and if he too felt the strong presence and emotions of the women. He must have as he confidently crawled around and shared his smile with us, much like me I suppose, sitting attentively and smiling my way through, hoping they would see my appreciative gesture. I told the woman who kindly housed and fed us during our time there that she must think that I am a very grateful person because one of the only words I could say was “shukran” (thank you).

However, I was grateful and am grateful. I’m grateful for their dedication to change, I’m grateful for their courage, I’m grateful for their love, and I’m grateful for their natural sense of community that seemed effortless yet strong and binding.

HAF Program Director, Amina, facilitated the four-day IMAGINE workshop, which the women attended happily and eagerly, some with their children, mothers, and grandmothers. The days were long, sometimes hard, but they did it and they achieved it for themselves, which is the beautiful part. They could easily be doing it for the future of their children to set an example, but to do so you must first believe you are the example and find that confidence within.

On the last day of the workshop, Amina asked me to share some words of my time there, and as I was getting ready to speak, I found myself choking up a bit, and I didn’t understand why. But, as I found the words, it dawned on me that what the women were longing for was within them the whole time, and I saw it in each and every one of them without being able to communicate to them.

They were powerful together because they are powerful individually, and that’s what makes a community thrive. They are much closer to their vision and dreams than they may realize, and as I shared that, I realized why I was getting emotional. I was happy that they discovered a way to find themselves, just as I found a bit of myself within them and through this experience.

To be empowered is to be defiant, but to feel empowered is unforgettable. Empowerment has no age, no limit, and no expiration. A little ___ can go a long way, and that was proven during my time with them. You do not need to take extreme measures to make a change; you just need love, support, some flip charts, and a little bit of couscous to circle around and share.

They shared stories, struggles, accomplishments, and dreams, in the hope that one day, soon, they will share their successes.

Charmaine Cacho is a graduate student at Northwest University and an intern with the High Atlas Foundation.

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