In the Middle Atlas mountain range in Morocco, women gather in the public bathhouse that they built, networking and bonding with one another as they share their successes and struggles. Without the Empowering Women in the Atlas (EWA) initiative, none of this would be possible.
Founded by Lamia Bazir, a rising leader in Moroccan civil service, the EWA launched last year with the mission of helping 100 women in the Middle Atlas Region achieve newfound social and financial independence. Partnering with the US Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) and Al Akhawayn Hillary Clinton Center for Women’s Empowerment, the program selected 100 female beneficiaries to receive training in project management, communication, marketing, and accounting, according to Morocco World News. On an individual basis, the beneficiaries received customized coaching and start-up capital.
Outside of the classroom, women constructed a female-run hamman in the rural village Adghagh, which functions as a bathhouse and healthcare center. This improves the availability of female-dominated spaces and public health resources. Moreover, running the bathhouse as a business opened new economic possibilities for the women involved.
According to Bazir, the major motivation for the project came from interacting with women living in rural villages and seeing that they defied the negative stereotypes by which outsiders knew them. She commented on her website, “These women [who are] often depicted as poor, needy, and marginalized had it all! The solutions were in them! They just needed connections [and] expertise.”
EWA was her way of distributing the “connections” and “expertise” to these women. In a statement, Bazir said the initiative works to break “stereotypes about rural women and demonstrates the need to invest in the immaterial capital of rural Morocco by connecting isolated populations, especially women, with educational and economic opportunities for the sake of their full integration into a dynamic of territorial and local development.
EWA held its closing ceremony earlier this month, marking the completion of the initiative. However, the end of the program doesn’t mean the end of EWA’s impact on the Middle Atlas region. Now, 100 women in the region have attended university classes and capitalized on their new knowledge, adding economic power to their community and sparking potential for serious economic growth.
EWA created female leaders in the region. Girls in the region can look to businesswomen, entrepreneurs, and other financially autonomous women as role models in everyday life. This gives the girls a chance to see themselves taking on comparable roles and achieving similar successes in adulthood, which means that this initiative will help younger generations as well, and therefore the prolonged economic success of the region.
The benefits of the program positively impact the men in the region too. The hamman delivers new opportunities for hygiene and health, which affect everyone in the community. Moreover, the 100 university-trained entrepreneurs make food products, soaps, and other goods that men can enjoy as well.
Seeing the impact that EWA had on the participants of the program, as well as the rural communities around them, will hopefully inspire similar projects in the future.
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