September 7, 2023
In 2022, the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) launched a literacy program for 40 communities in the Marrakech-Safi and Beni Mellal-Khenifra regions. This program, funded by the European Union, has provided 800 women and their preschool-age children access to participatory planning, women’s empowerment workshops, training for literacy instructors, partnerships with local universities, literacy classes, cooperative building, technical training for entrepreneurship, and preschool education. The program is supported through December 2023, however, its success has resulted in a proposal to extend and expand the program for another two years.
We use a rights-based approach to development, beginning each project with a participatory process where communities identify and prioritize their needs. Women and teenage girls are invited to participate in four-day “Imagine” empowerment workshops. Most often, these groups identify a need for increased income generation to elevate their families and communities financially and socially, accompanied by a desire to improve the lives of their families through better education and skill-building.
Training and hiring women from these communities as literacy teachers reduces the cost of travel and accommodations for teachers from distant areas, supports communities by creating jobs and increases motivation and comfort levels among participants. The classrooms for each participating group become Community Learning Centers (CLCs), spaces for women’s groups to not only meet and plan but also to learn and socialize.
Customized learning modules and materials include early childhood development themes (health, nutrition, discipline, learning, social skills, and family relationships). Participants model and practice reading and writing with their preschool children. As their skills improve, they can better apply these to parenting and improve their children’s, families’, and communities’ literacy levels. To the extent that females, children, and family members participate, this literate environment is extended and culturally anchored.
Program staff facilitate meetings to design business plans. At the same time, local and international expert volunteers conduct technical and entrepreneurial training alongside literacy classes so participants can create and manage cooperatives selling agricultural and artisanal products.
As an application of their literacy, participants create and implement action/business plans. They also visit other women’s cooperatives in their province with program staff facilitating mentorship and capacity-building to support and extend business success. Identifying products to sell, means of securing materials, commercialization, and business management strategies empower women, strengthen financial independence, and increase social mobility.
Program staff monitor and report quarterly on workshops, meetings, and other activities. Staff monitoring also assesses the application of new skills to entrepreneurial ventures. By monitoring, evaluating, and reporting how successfully the priorities of adult literacy, pre-primary instruction, and post-literacy application are achieved, HAF aims to improve the quality of adult and preschool education and create a model that bridges learning with employment.
The goal is to replicate the family literacy program across regions in the most remote Moroccan communities to help meet national goals of eradicating illiteracy, expanding children’s educational opportunities, and combating poverty.