Volunteering at an NGO abroad: U.A.F in Morocco
U.A.F stands for Union De L'Action Feminine and is a Non-Governmental Organization about supporting and enhancing women. In English, this is translated to the Union of Feminine Action; established on the 8th of March 1996 significantly important because its birthday marks International Women’s Day. There are 33 stations in Morocco and the headquarters are located in Rabat. The franchise I paid homage to is located in Tangier, one of their biggest outposts. This organization is a sign of great changes to come for the female gender in the country.
The office is housed in a narrow storied building. A group of fifteen including myself had to strategically organize ourselves around a small conference table to fit inside the squashly furnished reception, shoulders brushing against one another. Here we met the head of this facility, Mrs. Bouchra. A lady wearing a loose fitting hijab, spoke minimal English and smiled easily. She welcomed us warmly with a French speaking translator by her side and began to tour us around the building.
The first exposition was the door that stood in-front of us. A small room where women could partake in rape, divorce, child custody and domestic violence consultation. A lawyer and psychiatrist are provided to help with the legal and psychological processes on the long walk towards justice. Mrs. Bouchra then directed us up a narrow stairway to their library which could positively educate victims on their circumstances and learn more about the law. The library is an open space for any with free resources for all; compact with books holding new insights that help women through their legal battles. There are pictures stuck on the wall of happy women who had won cases with the organizations lawyers similar to an athlete victoriously celebrating with their coach.
Up another flight of stairs to the third floor, we found a workshop with four sewing machines and fabric clipped onto the walls of the tightly packed working space. Needles neatly arranged at the corner of every stitching instrument with multi-coloured thread arranged carefully in the shelves. Mrs. Bouchra further explained to us that here is where women are taught to sew, sell their products and generate income for themselves and their families. It’s a way of being securing financial independence.
Following the tour, we landed on the next floor which was the Education project that AIESEC was doing. Non-profit organizations in Morocco have partnerships with other non-profits which helps create closer connections and courses for a given target audience. Exchange participants in AIESEC in Tangier were teaching English to an age varied group from 6 years old to 24 years old. We greeted the class. I noticed the excited and eager look of small boys and girls; ready to learn English and expand their vocabulary. There are currently no facilities to teach different age groups but this was a course of basic English which would come in handy for anybody who wanted to learn the language.
Not only a female inclusive organization, men can also come here for job searches and some complaints of their own. There were two men who came with complaints of their own; one wanted to know how to remarry after getting a divorce and the other, a battered husband. Mrs. Bouchra laughed when she recounted on this story in particular, but I didn’t find anything funny to laugh about because I believe that domestic abuse is wrong in all cases and should be dealt with accordingly.
The last floor was the rooftop, beholding the Tangier’s skyline. The colours of the horizon are filled with clay red, yellow and cream buildings which holding satellite dishes looking like tails of the structures. They’re built in a cubicle style resembling building blocks like dominos toppling off the other creating the city. Morocco is a conservative Muslim nation where women’s rights are hardly spoken for due to the core of an Islamic patriarchal society. It is important to have a safe space where women’s voices can be heard and understood by the greater community without judgement or ridicule. As a feminist, I support everything to do with women’s rights and was glad to see such a strong organization fighting against gender inequality and female issues.
Despite the chipped wall paint, missing floor tiles and the way the desks were tightly compacted into a limited space, people were content and seemed happy. It was all they had and all they needed; concise to the needs of all women. It was a very humbling experience that we should never take our own resources for granted as there are millions who are less fortunate.
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