Dar Si Hmad for Development, Education and Culture is an independent nonprofit organization founded in 2010 promoting local culture and sustainable initiatives through education and the integration of scientific ingenuity in Southwest Morocco. We operate North Africa's largest fog harvesting project, providing villages with access to potable water. Our Water School and Girls' E-Learning Programs build capacity in the Anti-Atlas Mountains. Through our Ethnographic Field School, researchers and students engage with local communities in Agadir, Sidi Ifni, and the rural Aït Baamrane region for meaningful cross-cultural exchange.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Souad writes for AAUW on Empowering Moroccan Women

Our own Souad Kadi, a Project Manager in our Agadir office, recently spent a month with the American Association of University Women in Washington, D.C. as part of a Fellowship program. Dar Si Hmad is proud to support personal and professional growth for our staff - and proud of Souad for being such a strong advocate and role model for young women in Morocco!

Check out the original post at http://www.aauw.org/2016/12/20/empowering-moroccan-women/

Souad Kadi

“I look forward to using what I have learned during my fellowship in the United States and my time at AAUW to … continue the work of bridging the gender gap for young Moroccan girls and women.” — Souad Kadi

AAUW hosted Souad Kadi for a month this fall as part of the Professional Fellows Program, implemented by Hands Along the Nile and funded by the U.S. Department of State. As part of her fellowship program, Kadi spent time learning about AAUW’s fundraising, programs, and advocacy. During her fellowship she received leadership and grant writing training, connected with area nonprofits working on women’s and girls’ empowerment in her home country of Morocco, met AAUW members, and visited the United Nations. 
Here’s what Kadi had to say about her time at AAUW.

Women face numerous challenges in Moroccan society. The issue of gender inequality is still acute — Morocco ranked 139th out of 145 countries included in the 2015 Global Gender Gap Report published by the World Economic Forum — and lack of educational access for girls is one of the biggest obstacles in the way of bridging Morocco’s gender gap.

Souad Kadi holds an AAUW banner at the United Nations
Souad visited the United Nations during her time with AAUW.

 I am one of the very few young women from my home village to complete a university degree; many older women from my village are uneducated, and the vast majority of my female peers dropped out of school before starting higher education. The ratio of young educated females to males remains low in Morocco, and the number of women participating in the formal labor force is also below average compared to other countries. Additionally, there are still laws with provisions that work against progress toward gender equality and blatantly give men the upper hand in familial, social, political, and economic matters.

Souad Kadi at the International Youth Foundation during her fellowship time at AAUW
Souad also visited the International Youth Foundation with AAUW staff and supporters during her fellowship

However, some progress for women’s empowerment is being made. More Moroccan civil society leaders are working closely with communities to address issues of gender inequality. The nonprofit organization I work for, Dar Si Hmad (DSH), is committed to enhancing quality educational opportunities and sustainable livelihoods for vulnerable populations, especially women and girls in Morocco. DSH helps women and girls in rural areas through their fogwater harvesting project, capacity-building trainings, and Water School.

Souad Kadi (right) on her last day at AAUW with Program Associate Theon Gruber Ford
Souad on her last day at AAUW with Program Associate Theon Gruber Ford

The fogwater harvesting system pioneers technology to harvest water from fog and deliver it to marginalized rural communities in Aït Baamrane in southwest Morocco. The system has been successful, reaching approximately 400 individuals, 300 of whom are women. In the past, women from these rural communities would spend approximately four hours each day collecting and transporting water to their homes. Now, thanks to the fogwater harvesting system, women have more free time to dedicate to pursuing education and meaningful employment. These same women also participate in DSH’s new weekly trainings, which teach functional literacy and educate women about income-generating projects.

DSH also implements an annual Water School to expose both girls and boys from rural communities to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. By including girls in the curriculum and exposing them to STEM fields (as recommended in AAUW research), DSH’s Water School is actively taking steps to dismantle persistent sexist stereotypes that devalue Moroccan girls by deeming them less intellectually capable than boys. Approximately 120 girls have participated in the Water School project over the last three years.

I am proud of the impact I have been able to make on women’s empowerment work in Morocco through DSH and I look forward to using what I have learned during my fellowship in the United States and my time at AAUW to strengthen future DSH projects and continue the work of bridging the gender equality gap for young Moroccan girls and women.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Spreading the Word: the EYAs in Marrakech

Last week, we shared one of the posts from our Environmental Youth Ambassadors about their involvement at COP22. Today, we're happy to share their experiences with other youth groups in Marrakesh. Check out their blog for more tales from their time networking with other climate activists, speaking to the media, and sharing our UNFCCC award-winning fog-harvesting technology with visitors to our booth!

On November 8th, 2016, Mahdi Lafram and Salma Edrif along with program mentor Jade Lansing led a short presentation and discussion about Dar Si Hmad with Amideast-hosted National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) students in Marrakech. They talked about DSH innovative projects and their social impact in Southwest Morocco. The students were very curious and the team had an interesting conversation with this outstanding group of American youth. 


In the same week, Friday, November 8th precisely, our own Abdelhaq Ait Boulhous and Oumhani Benhima along with program mentors Jade Lansing and Becca Farnum were invited to the American Language Center in Marrakech for a lively discussion, with nearly 15 young people, about climate change and climate action at COP22.    

During this session, the team presented Dar Si Hmad projects, including the award-winning fog harvesting project as well as the Water School, and the Environmental Youth Ambassadors program, in addition to watching various self-produced videos.

The session was opportunity to ask participants on what does climate change means to them and facilitate a group activity which aimed to define climate change and find solutions to solve this problem, while sharing their different perspective and ideas with the team.


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

EYAs at COP22

Dar Si Hmad was proud to sponsor some of our Environmental Youth Ambassadors at COP22. Check out their blog for tales from their time networking with other climate activists, speaking to the media, and sharing our UNFCCC award-winning fog-harvesting technology with visitors to our booth!

The Conference of Parties (COP22) is 2016 rendez-vous of NGOs, activists, politicians and corporations to engage in an open dialogue about potential solutions for climate change effect on our planet.

In the Green Zone gathering civil society, numerous open Agora spaces were displayed to be used by COP 22 participants as speaking points, in order to engage with a larger audience outside booths. Each Agora space has specific themes, including youth, gender, culture, academia & research, etc.
As Environmental Youth Ambassadors, we held two speaking events at the Youth Agora, to both showcase our work to a larger audience, and get to know more about the audience’s involvement in climate change resilience.


During the two hours of each Agora event, we started by screening an introductory video, explaining the concept of the Environmental Youth Ambassadors (EYA) program and the general scope of work. We followed by an overview of Dar Si Hmad ’s work regarding environmental education, and the award-winning Fog Harvesting Project, leaving the audience to speculate about the nature of the fog project. We gathered their guesses before explaining the technology and science behind it. We discussed Fog Project as an innovative example of adaptation to water scarcity due to climate change in Southwest Morocco.

After receiving positive and admiring feedback about the fog project, we proceeded by projecting our main directed short film Being Part of the Nature that highlights the first part of our program which includes Water School and fog project visits, in addition to the media training we’ve received at Dar Si Hmad. The following screening highlighted the rest of our activities: Film & Ftour, Clean & Green, EYA Challenge, Walakin Campaign and WASH SOS Village, that serve as an example of youth-led efforts to promote climate change dialogue among the university students and youth of Southwest Morocco.

EYA Oumhani presenting our Clean & Green event

Speaking at the Youth Agora space enabled us to emphasize on how critical it is to leverage journalism skills and social media tools for the climate change resilience cause, a point that was agreed upon by our audience of worldwide NGOs and activists gathering for the same cause, at United Nations Climate Change conference in Marrakech.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Response to the ‘domestic violence makeover’ on state TV

Last week, Moroccan TV channel 2M made international headlines after airing a segment teaching women how to cover up the bruises left by domestic violence. In response, Dar Si Hmad staff asked some of our students to reflect on the issue of violence against women, how they have experienced sexual harassment, and what they think the media should be doing. A shorter version of this op-ed appeared on the British i News.

Sabhiyat, a daily programme on Moroccan national channel 2M, recently featured a segment teaching women how to disguise domestic abuse injuries. “Unfortunately, this is how things are,” the host mentions before outlining tips for how foundation can hide bruises. The segment ends dismissively, telling viewers “We hope these beauty tips will help you carry on with your daily life” – as though domestic violence can and should be easily ignored by its victims.

As has been well documented, violence against women is not a new issue in Morocco. 55% of its married women experience domestic violence. A few years ago, Amina Filali killed herself after being forced to marry her rapist. The United Nations and Human Rights Watch remain concerned by the limited legal protections available to victims. See more about this and preventive actions in a piece that appeared last year via The Conversation.

Given the statistics, this news segment sadly was not news. What was shocking, however, was its open acknowledgement of the problem even as it flagrantly dismissed it. The presenter apparently “considers this taunting experienced by women as normal” (see The Concerned Moroccan Citizens campaign). Rather than supporting abuse victims, this kind of reporting legitimises the violence and all but removes blame from the abusers.

Dar Si Hmad for Development, Education and Culture is a local non-governmental organisation working in Southwest Morocco. Our work includes women’s empowerment and capacity building, girls’ science education, and intercultural exchange through study abroad. In the wake of the 2M segment, we asked some of our young partners to respond. Here’s what they have to say:

Nadia, age 25
I have enormous concerns about this topic. We are in a country that considers girls the main problem causing sexual harassment. I will never forget my first time in a grand taxi (public transit cars) between Agadir and my hometown. I had just spent two weeks away from home for the first time in my life. I viewed the taxi driver as a father or brother, like anybody else doing his job and helping people get home safely. I knew something was wrong when I started getting weird vibes from his glances in the rear-view mirror. Immediately, I started to question myself. How could a man his age act this way with a teenage girl? Maybe I am his daughter or his sister’s age? I was afraid, uncomfortable, and shocked. I was also blaming myself for getting in an empty taxi and wondering if my hair or my outfit had encouraged this. He was smiling, and asking me questions. I was pretending to listen to music, but he wouldn't look away or stop talking to me. I put on my sunglasses to hide tears, and I wanted to scream. I was squeezing myself smaller in hopes he wouldn’t try to touch me. When we arrived in Agadir, other people got in, and I got out. I have never felt such feelings in my life. I was in his cage, and he enjoyed looking at me stressed. Through this experience I learned that while we still have stereotypes about girls in our societies, I will never trust bosses, taxi drivers, workers, or teachers, until we stop blaming the victim.

Zahra, age 21
Being beaten by your husband or anyone is inappropriate. What's worse is that the media makes it into a makeup tutorial, which makes it seem like this behavior permissible. We don’t just paint a wall covered in cracks, because no matter how many layers of paint you put on, the cracks will appear again sooner or later. Wives are not punching bags for husbands to take out their anger on. We have all experienced some sort of sexual harassment, but the bigger issue is that often nobody intervenes, because this has become so normal.
For instance, once I was riding a crowded bus, and I noticed that something strange was happening between a couple standing near me. The guy seemed like he was trying to do something, but the girl didn’t speak up. She looked so embarrassed. I made a fuss about it, and even when it seemed like he was going to hit me for saying something, NO ONE SAID ANYTHING. They just watched. There are places to go if these things happen to you, but unfortunately married women don’t go because they are afraid of shouha (shame). Of course norms, traditions, family views, illiteracy, play a big role in the spread of this phenomena.

Abdelkrim, age 26
As a young man I think domestic abuse is a gendered crime which is deeply rooted in the societal inequality between women and men. It takes place “because she is a woman” and happens disproportionately to women. I also think that women are more likely than men to experience multiple incidents of abuse. Domestic abuse exists as part of violence against women and girls, which also includes different forms of family violence such as forced marriage. This kind of abuse is very popular in Morocco, which is a shame for our society. I believe that the last show in 2M normalizes violence against women, and helps them cover it with makeup. Instead, it is very important to raise victims’ awareness and orientate them to get the help they need from authorities. However, I also see this show as a step forward, since it launches discussions worldwide about this issue and will certainly push the authorities to get the attention needed for the victims.

Jamila, age 20
The media creates a false image for women: either she is well educated and elegant or manageable and traditional. The media is not fair with these women. Instead of spreading their success and informing the audience of changing dynamics, it misshapes their real image into a false and bad one. It tells women they have to obey their husbands instead of defending their basic rights.

Salma, age 20
The fact that domestic violence is still an issue around the world, when we are getting ready for 2017, puts a great deal of responsibility on the media’s shoulders to spread anti-domestic violence messages. Unfortunately, the daily morning 2M TV program is portraying domestic violence as a given and morally accepted behaviour. It acts like a woman’s bruises are her responsibility to cover. In fact, the bruises are the alarming sign of the society’s failure to stand up for her.

Sara, age 26
We live in a patriarchal society that still believes that it is the wife’s responsibility to keep her family in harmony. We teach women they need to keep being patient or they will destroy her family. It is very weird to know that being beaten is a normal act. The weirdest thing is to cover up abuse instead of voicing your opinion and talking about your right of being respected.

Abdelhaq, age 23
‘Woman’ is a very priceless word for me. She’s my mother, my first love, the person I’ll do anything to keep alive. I won’t accept anyone saying things against or hurting her. Woman is my sister, my auntie, my friend, my everyone. Nobody has the right to touch a woman because of her gender or because the world gives her fewer chances. A woman is a human before she is a woman. She has rights we are obliged to peacefully respect. She has dreams of success and gifted hands, just like men do. As such, I totally respect and support her.

Souad, age 22
Seeing this show reminded of the conclusion I came to in my bachelor's thesis. I discovered that the media is a way of reinforcing dangerous stereotypes about women. I analyzed two Moroccan advertisements. In both, women are obedient, naive and almost always silent. These assumptions are transmitted between generations. If we don’t change something, the next generation will perceive women the same way their parents’ generation did.

Sara, age 20
I have never personally experienced violence, because I am lucky to come from a peaceful, honest home. We’re a patriarchal society, and violence is not only linked to husbands; it also comes from big brothers and uncles. Unfortunately, I have encountered sexual harassment, mostly verbal, and it’s upsetting to see that my favorite TV programs are giving make up tutorials on how to cover beatings. It’s really a shame to see how a serious issue has become so normal. Instead of covering it up, they should be talking about how to address the roots of this issue. Husbands need to control their anger and respect their wives.

Oumhani, age 21
Like many others, I encounter sexual harassment in the streets and it is mostly verbal. It is very offensive and insulting even when only verbal – and I wish the Moroccan government would criminalize that act. This should be a free country where men as well as women are free to wear whatever they want without being harassed. To help protect that freedom sexual harassment of any kind should be met with extreme sentences
The 2M TV segment is actually no surprise to me – the channel isn’t very good. Instead of wasting five minutes making a senseless beauty tutorial, they should have taken this dangerous matter into real consideration. They could have brought a legitimate coach, psychologist, or lawyer to teach us how to take action and not be afraid.
And however the bruises may look, women will always be strong and beautiful. No make-up necessary.

Tragically, domestic violence continues to be an issue – in Morocco and around the world. The media has a unique position to play…for good or bad. Reports like the one that aired on 2M are part of the problem. But speaking out can help break the cycle and be part of the solution. We invite you to join us in condemning violence against women.