By Houria CHOUHAB
One of my favorite activities to attend with HAF facilitators is women’s empowerment workshops. You can notice the difference between the first day and the last day in their behaviors, voices tones, body language, and the sparkle of their eyes.
On last Saturday, April 27th, I joined Empowerment Trainer, Ibtissam Niri, in a workshop she started two weeks ago for women in Ait Ourir. This village is 33 kilometers from Marrakech and it is surrounded by the Atlas mountains, giving this place a special charm. It was the first time I went there but it was not that hard to adjust to its atmosphere and establish good connections with the women. Although I did not attend the earlier sessions of this workshop, I had the pleasure to be present on the last day and quickly integrated with the attendees.
The session was introduced with the women’s impressions about the impact the workshop is having on them since the first day. What grabbed my attention is the declaration of a young lady who explained how much time she used to waste on social media doing nothing. For that reason she decided, on the first day she attended these workshops, to delete her Facebook and Instagram accounts. Furthermore, she stated that she is using her time now to study what she has been always dreaming to study and is giving now much more time to her husband and children.
Another girl, Karima, expressed how thankful she is for the change she is experiencing right now: “Now I am much more convinced that I have to stop caring about what other people think in order for me to live a peaceful life.” Her sister, Khadija, noticed this change: “I can see the difference in my sister now, she is getting out of her cave and giving herself a chance to live.”
Many women in Morocco, commonly in rural areas, give much attention to what others say, and may even abandon whatever they want to do in order to avoid society’s opinion. Therefore, it is important for these women to BELIEVE that people will talk anyway, so it is better to give them a real reason to talk about them.
Unfortunately, the source of this underestimation is the patriarchal society we live in. If we take the mere example when the man wants to give a gift to his wife or any closer female, he would surely buy her something related to kitchen or house materials. Another reason why women are “underestimated” in our society is this new female generation that is growing up. Girls do everything to impress men and marry them, and cooking is at the top of the activities they do, believing that the easiest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. They start giving the men too much attention which is not required at all, for the nature of human beings tends to stay away from all kinds of exaggeration.
Women need to learn to give themselves the care, love, and attention they give to others, and this is the ultimate goal of HAF through these workshops. The participants admitted to the errors they commit toward themselves and are willing to change. “ I have never imagined myself sitting on the same chair for the whole day. This describes my strong will and desire to change the way I behave or treat myself as well as the way I envision the future,” said Hayat, the president of ANMOUN Association for development, where the workshop was conducted.
Some of the participants answering some questions
I believe that women’s empowerment workshops should be conducted throughout all Morocco, cities and countrysides, in order to achieve wider human development.