Archive | Berber Women

Back to School with Education For All Morocco

With the girls of Dar Asni

With the girls of Dar Asni

While on the calendar we still have almost two more week of summer, the past two weeks officially marked “back to school” and the end of summer for my family and me. This is always a sad time for me, as I tearfully send my older children off to college and watch as my seventh grader develops his increasing independence from me. This year was no different, but I recognize that its an indulgence to be sad over a child’s parting for school when even the most basic education is not afforded to many children, especially girls, around the world.

“Right now, more than 62 million girls worldwide are not in school,” Michelle Obama declared after a recent trip to Liberia and Morocco to initiate “Let Girls Learn” when delivering a speech on the crisis of girls education.

“Sometimes the issue is resources: their families simply can’t afford the school fees; or the nearest school is hours away; or the school nearby doesn’t have adequate bathroom facilities for girls, so they’re forced to stay home during their menstrual cycles, and they wind up falling behind and dropping out.

But often the root of the problem is really about attitudes and beliefs: families and communities simply don’t think girls are worthy of an education, and they choose to marry them off as teenagers instead, often forcing them to start having children when they’re basically still children themselves.”

In her speech The First Lady detailed the program’s plans to support the Moroccan government to establish dormitories for girls so that the girls from the countryside may go to school. This is an important initiative, but as she states in her speech, “governments alone cannot solve this problem.”

That is why Kahina Giving Beauty proudly supports Education For All Morocco, a Non Government Organization which addresses the problem by building and running free and safe boarding homes for girls so they can continue their education beyond the age of 12.  Education for All was founded in 2009 with a single boarding home.  The program now boasts five boarding homes, housing approximately 250 girls.  Now, 18 girls from the program are attending University, the first girls in their villages to do so.  We have been supporters of the organization since its early days, sponsoring ten girls and helping to keep the houses running.

“EFA’s solution is to bring the girls to the schools, an approach which is beginning to change the lives of Berber girls in a way that could transform the region’s future. Their boarding houses, which are run solely by Berber women, provide accommodation, healthy food, support with homework and extra French and English lessons. On average, the pass rate for all academic years is 97%.”  — The Guardian, June 2016

The following is excerpted from Michelle’s speech:

I had the privilege of meeting Ralphina and Rihab earlier this week when I traveled to Liberia and Morocco to highlight our global girls’ education crisis — the fact that right now, more than 62 million girls worldwide are not in school. This is such a heartbreaking loss, because these girls are so bright and so hungry to learn — and like Ralphina and Rihab, they have such big dreams for themselves. These girls are no less smart or deserving of an education than my own daughters — or any of our sons and daughters. The only thing that separates them from our children is geography and luck.

 

The girls I met in Morocco and Liberia want to be doctors, teachers, entrepreneurs, engineers. One of them wants to run for office so she can fight for women’s rights and combat climate change. Another hopes to open her own auto shop to teach women about cars so they can be more independent.

But we know that when we give these girls the chance to learn, they will seize it. They’ll walk for miles each day to school. They’ll study for hours every night by candlelight, determined to learn as much as they possibly can.

 We also know that educating girls doesn’t just transform their life prospects — it transforms the prospects of their families, communities, and nations as well. Studies show that girls who are educated earn higher salaries — 10 to 20 percent more for each additional year of secondary school — and sending more girls to school and into the workforce can boost an entire country’s GDP. Educated girls also marry later, have lower rates of infant and maternal mortality, and are more likely to immunize their children and less likely to contract malaria and HIV.

In Morocco we’ll be working closely with the Moroccan government to help transform high schools across the country, and we’ll be supporting new school dormitories to allow girls from rural areas to attend school far from home.

Large scale efforts like these are critically important, and will affect the lives of countless girls, but they’re simply not enough. Governments alone cannot solve this problem — not when we’re talking about a number like 62 million.

While I will always be sad to see my children leave, I am so thankful for the opportunities afforded them by living in the society we do – and I think about the mothers in Morocco who are sending their young girls away from home to go on and live a life they could only dream of.

The Power of an Image

girls with photo

In this age of the ever-present selfie, it is hard to imagine a world where many people have never even seen a photograph of themselves. This is often the case in the remote villages of rural Morocco. Sharing my photos with the women and children on my visits has been a great source of entertainment for all of us, especially seeing the young girls and boys striking poses and racing back to me to look immediately in the view finder, then demanding more while jockeying for a prominent position in the group photo. Seeing the young women carefully analyze their photos is fascinating to me. I can’t imagine being so unfamiliar with my own image, but with mirrors and glass windows a rarity, these girls rarely even see a reflective surface. Far from disliking their photos because of an unflattering angle, as we are so ready to do, these girls typically respond with peals of laughter.

I recently had the honor of an introduction to Heather Binns, a talented photographer volunteering for an organization called Prints for Prints. Prints for Prints reminds me of the value of the family photograph. From the Prints for Prints website:

A family photograph is a precious thing to many of us, and especially to people who live in rural areas and often do not have a record of their children or elders. Prints for Prints creates makeshift studios in rural villages, working with local student photographers when possible, for the purpose of donating prints to those who do not have photographs of their loved ones.

Heather will be traveling to Morocco in February. It gives me great pleasure to sponsor her work with Kahina’s charitable partners, the High Atlas Foundation and Education for All, Morocco, where she will document their work and donate prints to families and the girls in the boarding home to send home to their loved ones. I hope you will join us in following Heather on her journey via instragram @heathre. We look forward to sharing some of her photos here.

women with photos

Help Save the Argan Forest

argan tree with goatsDespite preservation efforts, the argan forest has declined from 100 trees per hectare (approx. 2.5 acres) to 30 trees per hectare in less than a century according to a study presented during the World Congress on Agroforesty in Delhi in February. The forest, located in the Southwest of Morocco, covers about 870,000 hectares (2,175,000 acres).

Kahina is dedicated to the sustainable harvesting of the argan nuts, ensuring efforts to protect the trees and retain the raw material as an economic resource for the local community. We also support an initiative put forth by the High Atlas Foundation to plant community argan nurseries in the region. The High Atlas Foundation’s objective is to plant approximately 5,000 trees per village to improve the livelihoods of the local people and prevent the decline of the forest.  During the month of April, we will plant an argan tree for every bottle of Kahina Argan Oil sold on givingbeauty.com.

The argan tree is known locally as the tree of life. According to Mohammed SghirTaleb, the researcher who presented the study, “The exploitation of argan is not sustainable.” You can help to protect this precious resource by purchasing argan oil from reputable suppliers that promise sustainable harvesting practices and by donating directly to the High Atlas Foundation at www.highatlasfoundation.org.

ABOUT HIGH ATLAS FOUNDATION
HAF works to establish development projects in different parts of Morocco that local communities design and manage, and that are in partnership with government and non-government agencies. HAF uses a participatory development approach that includes beneficiaries as active partners in every step of the development process – from prioritizing development goals to project implementation and management to monitoring and evaluation.

Special Fundraiser for Education For All – 100% of Sales from Necklaces Through Dec. 21

Red Pouf On Blue Bag

Education For All, Morocco, helping girls in rural Morocco go to school, is hoping to raise money to provide a solar powered water heating system for their newest boarding home for girls. Through December 21, ALL PROCEEDS from the sale of our Pouf Necklaces will be donated to aid them in this initiative. By investing in clean energy, the organization helps to protect the environment while setting an example for the community and providing warmth through the winter for 36 girls.

Our Kahina Pouf Necklaces are hand made by Berber women in the region and come in a colorful hand-loomed cactus fiber pouch. Please help us raise money for Education For All by purchasing one of these unique gifts for yourself or someone you know. Alternatively, you can make a donation by visiting them directly at www.efamorocco.org

Red Pouf Necklace on Model

Help us support Education for All, helping girls in Morocco go to school

Dar Asni

Very few girls from the rural communities of Morocco get the opportunity to continue their education beyond primary school, which ends at third grade in Morocco. Secondary schools, mostly several miles away in larger towns, are not accessible to them for two main reasons:

1. Their parents cannot afford to pay for lodgings near colleges.
2. Their parents do not have the confidence in existing facilities near colleges to entrust their daughters to their care.

Education For All was established to provide the opportunity of a secondary school education for girls from rural Moroccan communities. Its first project, opened in 2007, facilitated access to secondary school for 36 girls from the remote villages of the High Atlas Mountains by building a boarding house for them in the town of Asni. This year, the organization completed the opening of their fourth boarding house and now provides free room and board (3 meals a day) for approximately 150 girls, allowing them to complete high school. Education for All also provides the girls with school uniforms, learning materials, and clothing and toiletries.

It costs 1,000 EU to provide room and board for each girl per year. As you consider your end-of-year charitable giving, I hope you will consider a donation to Education for All. Apart from a paid housemother and cook, there are no administrative expenses as both the committee and volunteers work on a voluntary basis allowing 100% of all donations to go directly to the project. Kahina has been a proud supporter of Education for All since 2010. You can learn more about the program and/or make a donation by visiting www.efamorocco.org.

KAHINA Helps Cooperative in Need

afafe-photo-berber-women-thumb3

One of the challenges we face in our mission of giving back is to identify programs that will help the Berber women of the argan region in a meaningful way.  After numerous visits to the argan cooperatives, we have discovered a way that we can increase the number of women participating in the argan industry, a source of needed economic and social freedoms for these women.

While all of the argan nuts that are harvested in Morocco’s argan forest for the oil are grown without chemical fertilizer, the current demands of the argan trade in Europe and the US require that oil be certified organic.  The certification process is expensive and requires a cumbersome amount of paperwork, two hurdles that can be insurmountable for these poor, illiterate Berber women.

With the help of a Berber argan distributor in Morocco, we have identified a cooperative that badly needed help paying for the certification of their oil in order to sell their oil on the foreign market.  Kahina has paid for the certification costs for this cooperative and has plans to provide them with the seed money they need to get their business started.

We are truly excited about our first giving back initiative and look forward to seeing the progress of this group of 43 women.

ZAHRA AZIZ

All of the women have been prepared for my visit and it is obvious that Zahra Aziz has draped herself in her finest fabric in honor of my arrival. When we discuss the difficulty of her work, she explains that “while she is cracking the nuts she thinks about the money she is making and this makes her smile.” Like many of the women, Zahra spends her time away from the cooperative weaving rugs.

Aarbia Amzil

Aarbia claims to be 70, but doesn’t know her age exactly. With no children of her own, Aarbia has adopted her 30 year old niece so that she has someone to care for her in her old age, but Aarbia says that her niece will soon find a husband and move out, leaving her alone. Aarbia tells me that she will miss her, but finds comfort in the company of the women of the cooperative. When I ask her how the cooperative has changed her life, she says, “Thanks to the co-op, I have gone from having nothing to having everything.”

Fatima Achkich

Fatima, who has two children she is raising on her own, has worked at the cooperative for 9 years. When I ask about her life, she tells me that she is happy, and that she especially enjoys the companionship of the other women she works with. In the positive manner she shares with all the women of the cooperative, she says “Thanks to my work at the cooperative, I am able to afford all I need to live.”

Ija Obella

Ija is one of the senior members of the cooperative at 80 years old. She has worked at the cooperative since it was founded 11 years ago. While her stern expression at first intimidates me, I find her to be hysterically funny and kind as we talk. Although I can’t comprehend a word she is saying, the women around her break into loud laughter as she talks. Ija lives alone and tells me that she is proud that her work has allowed her to be self-sufficient.

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