Making a Mark: Helping the Berber Women

berber-woman-writing

Most women of the argan cooperatives are illiterate and some are just learning to write their names through literacy programs provided by the cooperatives. Meeting these women for the first time,  it struck me that these women could barely write their names and yet they were producing the most amazing product.  It occurred to me that I could help them and produce a line of products that women here would want to buy.

In trying to bring these women to life for customers, I collected their signatures  and graphic marks which form the base of the package design. I use these signatures on the packaging so that people can understand what it means for them to be illiterate and then to learn to write their name or to navigate a bus route for the first time.  I also wanted to showcase the lyrical, beautiful side of the simple way these women live.

Since my first trip to Morocco, I have been back six times in order to source the oil from the cooperatives myself instead of going through a broker.  I want to know the source of the oil and test it for quality.  I have become friends with the women who work to extract the oil, and I let them indicate how they will allocate the resources I raise for them.

It has become clear that while few, if any, of these women has any formal schooling, education for their children is a top priority for them.  While there are some public elementary schools, early education is clearly lacking.  One of the cooperatives from which I source my oil outside of Agadir has indicated that they would like to build a preschool with the money.  Another cooperative houses a small classroom, but it badly needs electricity and supplies.  Yet another cooperative is in the process of building a women’s center complete with preschool, and a classroom to provide the women with literacy and women’s rights programs and could use help toward completing this project.  My measure of success will be when I am breaking ground on a preschool in a small village near Biougra.

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