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FRÉ and The Imagine Empowerment Workshop

by Tal Carmel
 

In January 2018, FRÉ’s founders and a couple ambassadors had the opportunity to plant Argan trees in Morocco. During the trip, they visited with the women who harvest the Argan seeds at the Izourane co-op in Tidzi, Essaouira. It was from this visit that FRÉ’s founders decided they wanted to do more for these women than simply help them keep the Argan forest alive through their replanting efforts. They decided to partner with the High Atlas Foundation to help fund an empowerment workshop for the women. The Imagine Empowerment workshop took place this past June 2018.

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Through FRÉ’s funding efforts, they raised enough money to help 30(!) women attend the workshop. The mission of the workshop was to to give the Izourane women a voice to discover their social and economic goals through self-reflection and inquiry. This was done through training sessions on the seven critical areas of a women’s life: emotions, relationships, sexuality, body, money, work, and spirituality. I was afforded the opportunity to ask a few questions of Fatima-Zahra, the woman who organized the workshop, and this is what she had to say:

 

What were your hopes for the women attending the workshop? And how did your results compare?

We were hoping the workshop from Izourane Ourgane would help these women find meaning and purpose in their lives, as well as to help them build liberated lives and have the ability to contribute to their community. We accomplished this by identifying individual goals and aspirations as well as helping the women to overcome hurt and pain. Most importantly, we helped these women to dig deep into their subconscious and build the techniques necessary to create the lives that they desire.

The result was that the women came together in the cooperative and talked about their inspirations and goals. They started focusing on possibilities and solutions, instead of putting their focus on their problems like: marketing, sales, earning money, and other personal problems, all of which created even more problems and drained their energies.

 

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What is the most shocking thing you've discovered from the Moroccan women you've helped?

The most shocking thing I discovered was how sexuality issues are deeply rooted in Moroccan culture.

 

What is something you think could truly help to change the world and women's lives?

I think the thing that could truly help change the world and women's lives is education. If women have the chance to study, their family dynamics will change. When families change, communities and the nation also change. Empowerment first begins with education and literacy. Educating women will give them the agency to shape their own lives and futures.Thus, it will set them on a path to ultimately change the status quo.

 

If you had one dream for women worldwide, what would it be?

I dream that women around the world will have the freedom and the ability to make change and pursue their dreams.

 

Marketing for Cooperatives: From Lifesavers to Pike’s Place

By Katherine O’Neil
Claremont McKenna College (USA), HAF Intern
 

On Friday, July 13, I visited the Tifaouine Women’s Cooperative in Amizmiz, Morocco with High Atlas Foundation (HAF) Coordinator Errachid Montassir and Land O’Lakes expert volunteer Lynda Drennan Swenson. The purpose of this visit was to provide a brief training seminar on marketing and financial management led by Ms. Drennan Swenson.

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Mr. Montassir, the President of the cooperative, and Ms. Drennan Swenson, from left to right.

 

The Tifaouine Women’s Cooperative was independently launched 4 years ago and has partnered with HAF to receive training and capacity-building workshops. Though there are 20 official members of the cooperative, only 12 are currently and consistently active.

Ms. Drennan Swenson’s visit was part of a joint program between USAID, Land O’Lakes, Farmer-to-Farmer, and HAF. This program was started over a year ago when Land O’Lakes received USAID funding to send Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers to Morocco. HAF has been fortunate enough to host a number of these expert volunteers, who have assisted us in aiding our many cooperative partners.

When we arrived at the cooperative, the President greeted us warmly and served us traditional Moroccan mint tea. We exchanged introductions and Ms. Drennan Swenson gave the President some Lifesavers, a traditional American candy. Lifesavers are small, circular hard candies with a hole in the middle; for the purpose of this meeting they served both as a pleasantry gift and as a lesson. Ms. Drennan Swenson illustrated the importance of customer-centered product design by telling the story of why Lifesavers have a hole in the middle. Originally, they were solid candies, marketed towards young children. However, young children often choke on small, solid objects such as these candies. The Lifesaver company realized that by punching a hole in the middle of their product, which would allow children to breathe in case of choking, they could advertise their candy as a safer alternative to other similar products. This simple story essentially summarizes the point Ms. Drennan Swenson wanted to make through her training session: the cooperative needs to find a way to make their product stand out from other cooperatives’ products, and they need to do so in a way that emphasizes the customer’s experience.

Ms. Drennan Swenson, using Mr. Montassir as a translator, asked the President a series of questions about the cooperative’s expenses, sales, profits, and system of record-keeping. She found that the cooperative was keeping adequate financial records and was making a profit, albeit a small one.

She then asked the President what she thought they could do to increase the cooperative’s profit. The President replied that other than decreasing their rent costs, which is not currently a viable option, she was not sure. Ms. Drennan Swenson stated that the women need to increase the price they are charging for their products, which are primarily couscous, biscuits, and bread. She explained that in order to successfully increase these prices and continue selling at the same level, the cooperative would need to redesign some of its marketing and selling strategies.

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Women of the Tifaouine Cooperative and Mr. Montassir.

 

This is where the training part of the session began. Six other women from the cooperative gathered to watch Ms. Drennan Swenson’s presentation, which included a video about Pike’s Place Market in Seattle, USA. In Pike’s Place Market, there are dozens of stands lined up next to each other selling the exact same fish; however, some stands are able to charge higher prices than others. The stands that charge higher prices are able to do so because they focus on the customer’s experience by entertaining them. The situation in Pike’s Place Market is highly similar to that of the cooperatives in Amizmiz: they are all selling couscous, biscuits, and bread just feet away from each other. To conclude her training, Ms. Drennan Swenson gave the women four principles to improve the customer experience: Play, Make their day, Be there, and Choose your attitude. The Tifaouine Women’s Cooperative can now confidently charge higher prices for their product and, as a result, will increase their profit margin.

Give to building women’s cooperatives.

 

A Pitch by High Atlas Foundation's Yossef Ben-Meir

This video is a genuine testament to the emotional drive and intentional visionary spirit backing the High Atlas Foundation. In concise pitch, the organization’s president, Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir, presents an intersection between STEM principles and the core goal of sustainable development that the organization strives to establish. Ben-Meir presents his vision for the crossover of pedagogy into technology, and society in a way that promises to integrate skills into culture for truly impactful sustainable development in Morocco.

Act4Community Forum: first steps in a new volunteer world

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By Saloua Rmita
HAF intern from Eastern Mediterranean University in Northern Cyprus
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Office Chérifien des Phosphates (The OCP Group) organized an Act4Community Forum with its staff in Safi (Marrakech region) concerning their volunteerism to support civil society actions for human development. The aim of the Forum is to spread awareness and inspire volunteers to create change within their communities and country and assist them in implementing local projects to create sustainable development.

Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir, the President of the High Atlas Foundation, addressed the audience of the Forum to share his experiences volunteering in Morocco, starting as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the early 1990s.

Furthermore, he discussed people's stories and challenges in different regions of Morocco, such as lack of clean water and adequate schools. He insisted that the solution to these problems is to create more opportunities for people’s participation and volunteering, and to call on other associations to follow the same path by encouraging their voluntary work.

My participation in Act4Community had a remarkable impact on me; I learned how volunteer work is significant not just for people who will receive it but also for volunteers themselves.

You can listen to Dr. Ben-Meir’s talk here.  You can also give to volunteer training programs with Moroccan university students.

High Atlas Shrugged

By Alex Frumkin
Duke University, travel abroad student
 

A week ago, I visited Marrakesh and had the chance to meet Yossef Ben-Meir, president of the High Atlas Foundation. I thought both Dr. Ben-Meir and the organization were very interesting, so I decided to interview him. I asked him questions about the organization, life in Morocco, his own life, and the role Judaism plays in all of these things. And afterwards, I reflected on what all that meant to me.  If any of that sounds interesting to you, click here.

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HafFdtn The women want more training concerning their empowerment and building the capacities of their cooperative.… https://t.co/4kFoMGq9xa
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HafFdtn Many women said that the first time they attended this training experience, that it is a new methodology for them,… https://t.co/WzpEYvoyF0
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HafFdtn ONSSA certification [from the food inspectors] is the third priority of the women of 17 cooperatives in the Oujda r… https://t.co/PbwP1QZAIS
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HafFdtn Planning for the activities of cooperatives is the second priority of the women from 17 artisanal and agricultural… https://t.co/H83lSLdR10
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HafFdtn Communicative and participatory meetings between members of the same and different cooperatives are the first prior… https://t.co/BNoh31WKM2
HafFdtn HAF is training 17 cooperatives in the region of Oujda, involving women and covering strategic planning of their co… https://t.co/N6UkMPpJOL
HafFdtn HAF facilitated the fourth day of a workshop concerning empowering women for the sustainable development of their c… https://t.co/EzHjDyxrdj
HafFdtn The women in the empowerment workshop understand that when they will develop their themselves they will make change… https://t.co/ieEeyqjma0

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High Atlas Foundation 511 Sixth Avenue, #K110, NEW YORK, NY 10011
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