Through a series of community meetings, I recognizedhow people see their lives and fight to live in good conditions. Through my humble experience, I was in some of the villages where people feel disconnected from the only communities they have known, and neglected. I heard stories that really touch my heart.
When I heard people’s stories about their lives and living conditions, I feel more responsible, faithful and committed to do my job at HAF that I really love. Amina is a coordinator at a local association in one of the rural communes of the Al Haouz province. She showed a great interest in participating in this development training program specifically for locally elected women, and supported by the National Endowment for Democracy, a US fund.
Recently Fatima Hadji, NED’s program officer, and Rebekah Usatin, NED’s program officer for monitoring and evaluation, attended with us one of the community meetings in Tamslouht commune that was facilitated by communal council member Salma, in order to evaluate the program. They were very satisfied with the experiential training and what has been achieved regarding the increase of women’s capacities to advance human development. Together, we have seen the other side of Morocco: “The neglected Morocco”.
People are so angry and pessimistic when they feel that their voices are not heard and they were not given an opportunity to speak. Some of the community members do not have a sense of belonging to their own communities because of the unjustly disadvantaged history they have lived. When I first heard that, my initial reaction was anger and confusion because I thought and feel that they are discriminated against and misjudged. Why do they feel they do not belong to the communities within which they were born and raised, and lived their entire lives?
They describe that “someone” took all their land and other “intruders” bought it from them. It is hard when you benefit from great privilege to see it as that, because a fish does not see water. It hurts deep when you hear the community people talk about their concerns and they sacrificed even their land for the sake of their children – to invest in their kids’ education to have a school so that they do not have to go far away in difficult circumstances to study. The community members feel like they do not need to know to whom the land now belongs – they have a school for their children and that is essential to them. But why must they pay such a price of having food and income shortages, forsaking means for their own growth?
I think the community people do not like to be considered neglected or problem-makers, but they want to be problem-solvers and cooperate with others to make their development goals more national and inclusive. The good news is that people feel that they need to find a way and take the initiative by themselves, and be creative to solve their own problems and issues after they sit together to conduct participatory methods in their preferred settings.
In every community meeting, I become more responsible and committed to HAF, and increasingly feel that I need to know how wealth is distributed in my beloved country. I have never asked myself this question on how property is distributed in my community.
Participatory development does not only imply a kind of subject for me, but I feel like rather it is an approach and a tool to know about the reality of communities. It is more about behavior that gives the power and the privilege to the PEOPLE. I learned a lot with the communities and that makes me feel I am not scared of knowledge, but I am scared of ignorance that may destroy a lot of things in our communities. This reminds me of the lesson I learned from my supervisor Abderrahim Ouarghidi: when you live, live for the people and when you live for the people keep yourself fighting for them and share with them the way on how to get there.
The communities really do know what they need and what they want because they have no fear to say what is important for them.
I would like to say:
People who have no access to power, please know you do have it, and participate.
If you do not feel you have rights, just participate. In Morocco and under the sun, the right is yours.
If you have been denied by history, voice your concern and just participate.
If you don’t remember what your fight is about, just participate.
Here are some ways in which we have encouraged women through trainings:
Some of the elected women to communes (or municipalities) started to take action plans regarding the priority projects identified by the community people. Some of these actions are:
• Writing proposals for these projects and submitting them to the National Initiative for Human Development (NIHD) in Al Haouz.
• Training some of the local associations on how to fill in the NIHD forms and write project proposals.
• Some of them took a contribution to help solve some local concerns.
The elected women and we at HAF consider all these initiatives positive change.
Thank you, Fatima and Rebekkah for taking the time to visit us, and helping our meetings! This is just the beginning!
Fatima and Rebekah helping with hanging the flipcharts on the wall at Douar Iggout.