By Hafsa Oujeddi
Youth Conservation Corps Fellow
This question always haunts me whenever I see a girl in a small, remote village or up in the mountains. She has the same abilities and potential as me, but life may not have been as fair to her. I always wonder why it's me and not her, or her and not me?
Why do I have most everything that helps me achieve my dreams and goals? And she likely has many things standing in her way, pushing her to give up on her dreams. Why am I not that little rural girl whose traditions and customs dictated burying her dreams and sentenced her to an early marriage?
These questions always lingered, and I couldn't find an answer until I visited one of the villages, called "Dwar Tefrki" in the Taroudant province, affected by the 2023 High Atlas earthquake. As part of the Youth Conservation Corps Program, funded by the United States Forest Service and implemented by the High Atlas Foundation in Morocco, I embarked on a four-day adventure.
I can sum it up in one sentence: 'I lived a life where I possessed nothing.' This experience allowed me to understand my capabilities in a practical context (communication, coexistence, adaptation, openness to differences, understanding, respecting diversity, accepting others). It also introduced me to new customs and traditions, but most importantly, it allowed me to live my dream as an educator.
Today, I have 17 boys and girls, children I can give hope to, and they gave me confidence. I gave them love, and they reciprocated with respect. I assured them that they are worthy and deserving of all love, and they felt everything despite the strangeness of everything to them. On the last day, they decided to describe me in one word: beautiful, wonderful, graceful, kind, but what left a mark was the word: Fair (Justice).
A young girl from the Tefrki region described me as fair. Here, I felt that I found the answer to my question, why me and not her? Here, I realized that it's my journey to be me for some reason. I feel certain that I am on the right path, and my journey has just begun. I am convinced that guidance will come for me to be fair in what's to come.
In the end, in a world full of chaos, I want to be a role model for every little girl, and this is what this program enabled me to learn. Today, I might have just been what I seek in the lives of 17 boys and girls in Dwar Tefrki.