By Arielle Moss
The oscillating hum of playful banter accentuated with bouts of laughter can be heard just outside the doorstep of the Association of the Protection of the Moroccan Family (APMF) in Meknes, Morocco. A squat, one-story structure with three rooms and a kitchenette, APMF is an organization that stresses the importance of women and family functioning as a unit. It directly serves any Moroccan woman seeking to receive additional education in a variety of subjects and trade skills to better herself, which inherently betters her family.
By perfecting their craft, after two years of regular membership at APMF, women can receive a certificate to market the goods they produce commercially. This generates not only financial independence and an additional source of income, but it instills within the woman a sense of self-satisfaction and achievement, two vital, sustainable factors that elevate the status of women in Morocco. To showcase their hard work and talent, the women at APMF hosted a reception and exhibition of their collection of baked goods, artwork, and garments they had been working on for the past year at the symposium, “The Journey of the Moroccan Woman”, hosted in Meknes by Women’s Voices Now, ISA, and ELAP on June 19.
Besides providing a slew of resources and educational programs, many of the patrons consider going to APMF as “therapy”. Simply observing the women chatting and joking around animatedly while sewing jelabas(loose-fitting, traditional Moroccan dresses) or decorating pastries with intricate lattices of icing and nuts, the network of friendship is quite apparent. Everyone possesses unique talents that they happily share with each other when tackling any project. These women have their own reasons for attending APMF and come from a range of socioeconomic and educational levels, yet they are all united by their desire to pursue something higher, to achieve.
Leila*, a member for two years, spoke of the relentless household routines and how she felt like a “nobody”. She began attending APMF, and she learned how to bake pastries that she can now sell to local patisseries. “The association is like a best friend—everyone helps me get through the day. Now I can do things, and my life is more full now.” Leila’s situation and love for APMF echoes the sentiments of many of the other women.
Women’s Voices Now interns conducted a video profile on a patron of APMF, Wama Azaz, who goes by Samira, on the importance of her family and the impact APMF has had on her life. She initially joined APMF for a break from constant household duties. An amateur seamstress, she also wanted to learn how to create garments with traditional styles that depict the love she has for her culture. Samira not only honed her artistic talents through painting, ceramics, and sewing, she discovered the meaning of unity and found within APMF a second family. By splitting her time between her home and APMF, Samira realized that she actually had more energy to give to her husband and four-year-old son. Accompanied with projects to perfect, goals to achieve, and companionship from the rest of the women at APMF, “now I feel like I can breathe. Truly breathe. ”She emphasized the importance of women providing their own income to help their husbands provide for the family. Samira’s experiences at APMF reflect its very mission statement. “By bettering myself, I better my family.”