On 27th July, I had the opportunity to visit one of HAF’s “Imagine” workshops, organized in the valley of Ourika. The workshops aim at empowering women both financially and personally, providing a space for learning, discussion and inspiration. It was the first time that Rachida, apprentice trainer of the program, had the chance to hold a workshop, under the guidance of HAF staff Ibtissam Niri.
The workshop started with an introduction of the Imagine program, then a brainstorm on the ideas of “empowerment” and “the growing edge”. Participants associated them with concepts like “control”, “expression” and “strength”. Conversations started to heat up as the women went on to share their own learning experiences and difficulties faced in various aspects of life.
Aicha, mother of two children, shared that she once wanted to quit her job at the cooperative because she was pregnant. However, after discussions and affirmations at the workshop, she decided to take the challenge of work and take care of her children at the same time. And, she did it. For her, the cooperative was more like a family. She could take a break from work every few hours to breastfeed her baby at home, or even take her baby with her to work. These are possibilities that she would never have imagined in other places.
Another participant, Fatima, told the story of her first time putting on make-up for a friend’s wedding. She was so scared and embarrassed with the make-up that, she couldn’t help covering her face with her scarf. After a while, with all the music, dancing and conversations, she let down her guard, and forgot completely about the scarf. Unexpectedly, she was told that her face was beautiful. Tears came down her face as she realized that she could be proud of her appearance. “I cried so much that my make-up was ruined!” A wave of laughter filled the room as Fatima told the hilarious story.
The experience visiting the Imagine workshop was very different from what I had expected. It was surprising for me how confident Rashida was, and how eager the participants were to share their stories and thoughts. For these women, the workshop was not only a classroom, but also a social space – a space not easy to find elsewhere. The family-like environment allowed them to feel comfortable sharing any thoughts, weather big or small, weather feasible or not. That is, to IMAGINE. By having their voices heard, and by hearing other women’s voices, they had their imaginations recognized, and were inspired to see new possibilities.