We shared an article amongst are team this week. It read:
"The proportion of female participation in the labor market did not exceed 25% in 2012, compared to 30% in 1999, despite the improvement in women’s access to education and the apparent decline in birth rates. By comparison, the median worldwide percentage of female participation in economic activities was 51%, while female participation in sub-Saharan African countries reached 60%." Source: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/culture/2013/04/morocco-gender-equality-failed.html#ixzz2PiKqJca1
This brought back a conversation that the HAF team had in our national team meeting back in February, in which we asked, "Who are we and who do we work for?" In a room of mostly Moroccan woman and a few Moroccan men, we said we are Moroccans and Americans working for the people who are trapped in an institutionally unjust system.
It is for this reason that we continue to work with the women of Tassa Ouirgane to find them a space for their coop (which we have -- it is donated by men in their village), teach them skills from which they can make a wage (we have hired an expert embroidery trainer in the region), and provide them with equipment and material (which are being delivered this week to the coop site) so that they have the opportunity to be part of the workforce, and get out of this cycle of unemployment and poverty.
You're supporting much more than these hundreds of women by funding this project. You're supporting the long but increasingly traversable challenge to give women the opportunity to be self-sufficient, to provide for their families, and to chose their future.
Thank you for being part of our journey to level the playfield, for women in Morocco and around the world.
On Tuesday 20th November, Hassna Ait Hassou, HAF's community leader from Tassa Ouirgane, conducted a community meeting with the women of her Douar (village) concerning the rules they will adopt to manage their association. Hassna has been trained by the High Atlas Foundation's staff to lead meetings through participatory development methods. She is transmitting these skills to members of the Tassa Ouirgane Co-op to encourage autonomy and self-governance.
Based on Hassna’ reflection, the day was very powerful because the community women showed that they were prepared to start to learn new skills to raise income in order to help their families and themselves. Hassna conveyed that during her meeting with the women, she ensured their full participation while creating norms by which they will manage their association. They went over the basic laws of the association to clarify the goals of the association. Through discussion, the women established the following rules:
Here are the rules on how the profits of Tassa Ouirgane women’s association will be distributed:
Thank you so much to our supporters for providing these amazing women with the opportunity to organize and produce income for themselves. Their eagerness and committment is inspiring and apparent. More to come...
Oct. 2012 Field Report from Ouafa Elbarqui, HAF's Center Coordinator:
Cooperative for women and young girls of Tassa Ouirgan, Rural Commune of Ouirgane, Province of Al Haouz, MOROCCO
October, 2012 Updates
The High Atlas Foundation’s field team had led a great deal of participatory community meetings with women and girls of the rural village “Tassa Ouirgan” for them to prioritize and identify their local development projects. As a result of this series of participatory community planning meetings, around 60 women and girls will benefit from the co-op to be constructed, enabling them to easily manage the local development projects they have already identified. Creating this co-op will also give them a chance to improve their lives in the sense that it offers them a space to meet, discuss and make decisions by their own. More than that, it can be a space for improving their capacities; learning of new skills in different domains: Crafts, Agricultural, educational and environmental skills…etc. It is an important space for skills and knowledge exchange not only between women and young girls but between experts, which will be provided by the HAF.
The HAF has given a lot of importance to the construction of this co-op location for women and has put it as one of the first goals of the HAF in Tassa Ouirgan because of the great interest the women and young girls have expressed for this need. On September 20, 2012, Ouafa Elbargui, the HAF’s center coordinator was joining the group of women and young girls during two hours of the general assembly for the registration of the women’s co-op, and together we succeeded to formulate the board of directors, which consists of 9 members (women and young girls). These Board members will manage all of the business of the co-op with participation of the other advisors. The co-op is called “Hope Association for Women of Tassa Ouirgan”. For this moment both the HAF’s team and the board members are working together to complete the application file for the registration to submit it to the Caidat of Ouirgan, a state administration which belongs to the Ministry of Interior which provides the authorization for creating cooperatives, nonprofit associations….etc.
Once we get the provisional permit, the construction of the co-op building will begin. Normally, this professional document is received after 15 days of the file submission. Then after two months, the Caidat will provide the final permit. Both the women and the young girls are very ambitious and happy about having their co-op, feeling that sense of autonomy of managing their lives and projects themselves. It always used to be a hope for them but now it is going to be a realized dream.
[See attached photos.]
The Women’s Groups:
Over a 3-month period, participatory Community planning meetings and discussions were held with women’s groups (34 people total) from two villages – Amsouzert and Aguerzrane. During these meetings, and building on the information from prior group meetings, women were very positive about their idea for a Cooperative that includes the economic craft activities of dress- and carpet-making, and knitting projects. In addition, the participants voiced their hopes for a literacy-program and a child care center, which was also identified by men’s groups. Many women (and men they separately stated) support the iris planting idea. The 4 total field facilitators were mostly listening during these discussions, and assisted the pairwise ranking activities (results below), where the women prioritized the kinds of Cooperative activities they preferred. The women proposed their suggestions to the president of the Commune (who is highly supportive of the idea), as well as other heads of associations. The Commune began the processes of identifying land for the women’s proposed Cooperative.
The women’s groups explained, in different ways, that they have either never been to school or left at an early age, and they want to fulfill that need of knowing either by learning how to read and write or by developing other craft-related skills. This exclusion of women and girls from the socio-economic sphere is due to a range of causes, including: limited financial resources within the household; the burden of household chores assigned to young girls, particularly in rural areas; the absence of adequate educational, communication, and transportation infrastructure; and beliefs that prioritize the education of the male child in the family. Personal status codes also discriminate. The women believe that they will be able to improve their lives and those of their families with a co-op.
The attached charts show the results of participatory planning activities that helped them prioritize their desired activities for the co-op.
Today, cooperatives (also referred to as co-ops) are businesses that are owned and democratically controlled by their members — the people who buy their goods or use their services. They are not owned by investors. Unlike investor-owned businesses, cooperatives are organized solely to meet the needs of the member-owners, and specifically NOT to accumulate capital for investors. As democratically controlled businesses, many cooperatives practice the principle of "one member, one vote," providing members with equal control over the cooperative.
This is not a modern-day notion. Cooperation dates back as far as human beings have been organizing for mutual benefit. Clans and tribes were organized as cooperative structures, allocating jobs and resources among each other and only trading with the external communities, and in Morocco's rural mountain areas, this practice continues today. Why? Because it's practical, and it works!
Today over 800 million people worldwide are members of cooperatives, and co-ops provide 100 million jobs, which is 20% more than multinational enterprises. Whether providing wine in Portugal, handicrafts in Thailand, banking in France, food and household goods in Switzerland, milk in Malta, cheese, hardware and butter in the US, fruit in Cyprus, farming in New Zealand or childcare in Sweden, co-ops are part and parcel of making societies and economies work, while empowering people and abiding by the values and principles originally outlined by the Rochdale Pioneers, who set up their co-op in Lancashire, England in 1844. (Could they have imagined that an idea they had developed to meet the needs of shoppers in their home town, would be adopted across the world?)
Cooperatives today abide by 7 internationally recognized Cooperative ("Rochdale") Principles:
More and more Moroccan women and girls are interested in forming co-ops to empower themselves, as they see that this structure can enable them to create income together, which in turn will lead to greater opportunities for themselves and their children. I also see this as sowing more seeds for democracy. Once people experience positive actions leading to positive consequences, that speaking up and participating in decision-making can make a difference in the outcome, and that looking out for the greater good can only bring about mutual prosperity, they are far more likely to hold their representatives accountable because they have learned that power and authority can achieve far more good when executed with an equal amount of responsibility and accountability.
Support your local co-op ... and help start a new one in Morocco!
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