My day with the two Latifas

or juj Latifat (two Latifas) if you will.

My upcoming program for International Women’s Day has been a bit like a rollar coaster… meeting and planning the budget, grant stuff, emotions, denial etc. etc.

Anyway, last Friday was a high point. The escalation of nervousness and feelings that grows until you are right at the top of a hill on a coaster before you fall… I used to LOVE* that feeling… the ‘EEK’ that would come out, the nervously looking over the side. The ascension is the best part on a physical rollar coaster and in the rollar coaster of life.

I met my counterpart Latifa at the preschool she runs before we went out for the day. She had told me the day before we were going to talk to high schools about getting girls involved with the event. On the way out of the preschool, we met another Latifa who is the president of another women’s association that I have worked with… and out the door I went with the two Latifas. I was surprised that we were walking but I told myself it would be good exercise since the high schools are pretty spread out. We didn’t go far though… next thing I know we are at a local pharmacy telling the pharmacist and another lady about the event. They seemed to be talking about the details so Latifa (we will call her Latifa one) and I went outside to look at the roundabout in front of the pharmacy.

This roundabout has the ability to be breathtaking, unfortunately at its current state it is more than a bit lacking. Garbage bins are overflowing, the ‘fountain’ is broken and filled with trash and the landscaping is non-existent. Latifa (one) started chatting about the things we would do for this wonderful little roundabout on International Women’s Day. Latifa (two) walked out of the Pharmacy and told Latifa (one) and I that she had received two large donations from the pharmacist and the woman, who turned out to be a dermatologist. We took that as  good sign and started walking to the doctors, butches, and stores around the roundabout to ask them for donations for the day. It was a very* successful day and with the bumps that we had had in the last couple of months, it left me feeling like we were still riding to the top of the coaster!

These couple of hours reminded me of how generous and supportive Moroccans can be, most of the donors within seconds were willing to help out in some way. It surprised me that we were able to just walk out with cash-in-hand donations. Those few hours also reminded me of why I wanted to join Peace Corps in the first place, the feeling of working with other people successfully towards a mutual goal was absolutely amazing.

The afternoon continued with Latifa (one) inviting Tyler, my tutor and myself to a cous cous lunch (the typical cuisine on Fridays). It was wonderful… by far the best cous cous I have ever had in Morocco. It was one of those ‘I’m really full but will continue to eat type of meals’.

While we were eating, some of her little preschoolers were returning from their at-home lunches. Usually when I come to the preschool,we are in the confines of her office and I don’t get the opportunity to interact with the little ones. This was a different kind of day and one little boy caught my eye. His name is Reda and the fact that his pants were a little* too short made him more endearing. Most of the little ones were shy in disposition at first, but after we were there for awhile,  the kids were dancing around us trying to get our attention. Within the hustle and bustle, one little boy ended up hitting Reda. Latifa stood up and went to talk to the boy about how wrong his behavior was. The little boy immediately started crying and yelling at Latifa. Because his tears were streaming, his words were a bit muffled for me but my tutor started laughing almost immediately.

Apparently, the little boy, whenever he is upset, he starts yelling that he will buy a sheep and he will eat it all himself and not share it. This time, he yelled it over and over, including little bits about telling his father that Latifa had hit him. The little boy took his experience with his family buying a sheep for l’eid kbir and thought that the most hurtful thing he could say was to not share his sheep. This would be akin to a little boy yelling that he would buy a Christmas turkey or ham and not sharing it with his teacher. In that moment of almost spitting out my cous cous because I was laughing so hard, I was reminded again of why I joined Peace Corps. The moments that you share with people in more than one language that creates wonderful relationships.

The day ended with a wonderful surprise Valentine’s Day dinner of turkey burgers and french fries and delicious homemade chocolate covered strawberries.

And that was my day with the two Latifas.

“Like, I am woman, hear me roar”

Happy International Women’s Day!!!!

Well, it was actually yesterday…. but its okay if we keep celebrating, right? Okay good…

So March 8th, is International Women’s Day for those of you who didn’t know… and up until last year…. I had NO CLUE that a women’s day existed! Some feminist I am, huh? It definitely puts some perspective on our rights and a feminist dialogue in the media in the United States… basically….there is none.

Yesterday morning, I was reading my emails, which consists of updates from news sources and an obsessive amount of food, fashion, and feminist blogs. As I was reading though, I felt the disappointment and sadness rise inside me. None of these blogs had the SLIGHTEST mention of International Women’s day… I mean on a regular basis I can read anything from an amazing purchase from goodwill, to fudge brownies with whipped peanut butter frosting to the candidates that are being considered for the pope-hood!!! Not-a-one mentioned celebrating women and all they have obtained in the last hundred years or even a conversation about what NEEDS to be done…. finally my disappointment was relieved a bit as I read the feminist posts- which of course mentioned the wonderfulness of the day.

It makes me wonder why this is so… why, as an educator, have I never thought about doing women’s programming? Or that there was a day to celebrate women?! Are today’s feminist voices muffled because of the negative associations with the word, feminist? Why is the day not a highly celebrated, intensely publicized day in the US, when this is a day that is celebrated across the entire world?!

Here in Morocco, our wonderful Gender and Development (GAD) committee sends out emails, provides amazing resources and highly encourages every volunteer to participate in International Women’s day. Likewise, the Ministry of Youth and Sports (the ministry that youth development is under) advocates for the day by promoting it to its Dar Chababs and mudirs (youth centers and directors). When I mentioned it to our mudir a couple of weeks ago, he immediately took the reigns and started calling women’s associations all around the city. There were several meetings where it was decided that we would hold a round table and discuss women’s issues in Larache. Some of the associations involved were Space of Women (the association I recently became involved with), the human rights association in Larache and a women’s political association of Larache- it was amazing!!!! The planning was so exciting (even though my understanding in the meetings were pretty low), I could definitely feel the vibe and excitement for this event! About two weeks before though…. my mudir asked me to present about Peace Corps. He wanted me to tell everyone what Peace Corps does in Morocco for women and similarly, what Tyler and I do in Larache. My first impression of what this round table would be like, was an intimate event with the women’s associations literally at a round table, talking about what we can do in Larache for women. The reality of the event, though, was much different. We held the event this past Thursday and at the start of the event, there were about 100 people in attendance. 100 PEOPLE! It hit me that I would be giving my presentation in front of all these people! Fortunately, I had a friend by my side who helped to calm me down throughout the event, I was able to sail through my part with only a few hiccups. It was amazing and empowering to see all of these people willing to listen to a healthy conversation around the rights of women. Little did I know, that one of my students would be taping the event and then posting it on his online newspaper, Larache 24. Yesterday, as I was walking to my women’s class, I was stopped on my street by a man, who told me that he had seen me on Larache 24. I was, obviously, taken aback but mostly glad that the word was getting out about International Women’s Day and its celebration in Larache. It made me more cognizant of the fact that it is not only important, but vital to create awareness- whenever and wherever you can. Not just for International Women’s Day (of course, this is what I would champion) but about anything that is important. Sometimes, it can be difficult to stand up and speak out for beliefs- there are naysayers and even the apathetic people who might stand in the way of celebrating the important things. Despite that, however, it is the creating and planning something from nothing that might catch one person’s attention and the next thing you know….. you are not only speaking to more than 100 people…. but to an indefinite amount of people about how important it is to celebrate women and all that they have done for the world.

Here is the link to Larache 24, the online newspaper that covered the event!!!! Don’t forget to use google translate 🙂

This is one of the videos from the event. At 1:26 when everyone claps, it is after I tell them that one of the resources that Peace Corps provides is a toolkit to help “Stop Sexual Harassment”…. hope you enjoy! 🙂 And don’t forget to celebrate the wonderful women in your life and ALL of their accomplishments!