Thursday, March 25, 2010


From time to time, I come across an individual's success story and think, "Efrita." It literally translates into "fiend." In Morocco, this term does not describe a demon or diabolically cruel person. It means someone who is highly skilled at something. It means someone who can move mountains. It means someone who is driven and can create change. It means beast.

This morning, I was at Douia's house, the Association treasurer. After breakfast, we went over photos of an Agadir training she participated in last November. Douia pointed to one the presenters, "Hiya efrita. She's a beast. Tbark allah 3liha. May god grant her grace." Apparently, this trainer was a self-made women. She travels across Morocco , involved in this project and that. She motivates people. We talked some more about her experience in Agadir. Shortly after, Douia joined her sister on the couch to watch TV. Apparently, there is not anything pressing to accomplish this morning.

So you see some of my doubts. The Association has received many "gifts." Planet Finance had a two-year partnership with the Association. They conducted numerous workshops in the village. They financed countless trips to craft fairs and trainings for the women. Peace Corps Volunteer after Peace Corps Volunteer has come, lived and worked along side of them. Mushmina came for a product development workshop. The two sisters recently stopped by again, for another order and crochet samples for a fall order.

Could it be that they're use to someone else doing the work for them? Could it be they're waiting for an efrita instead of taking initiative themselves? This past week, I've explained my frustrations working with them. They understand the points I make. They know what they should be doing. But the question remains, who will be the first to change? I've asked a handful of women. I've yet to receive a comforting response.

Mid-April will hold the second Marche Maroc, organized by the Ministry of Artisana and Peace Corps Volunteers. I'm leaving for Spring Camp. Then I'm taking a strategic vacation to the desert dunes and gorges. Let's see what they can accomplish for the craft fair. Perhaps I need to step back a bit for them to fend for themselves.

A fellow Peace Corps Volunteer recently came across the story of Faiza Hajji Wozniak. I think she, like many other Moroccan women, have an undeniable drive and beauty of spirit. Hiya efrita. I wish some of this spirit would rub off on my ladies.

Faiza Hajji Wozniak: Recycling Plastic Waste for Development
Interview by: Romen Bose
(AFP Foundation, 2008)

Faiza Hajji Wozniak, 27, gave up a career as a telecommunications engineer to help a development project that combines environmental protection with the campaign against poverty and illiteracy in her home country, Morocco.

"We have a neighborhood called Douar Mika, that means the neighborhood of plastic because all the plastic bags of the city are taken by the wind there so it's completely black," she said.

"I thought, how can we take these bags and make something interesting from them and I tried to use the local technique of weaving and apply it to the plastic bags, and this is the result."

Her prize-winning entry in the photo essay category shows women in Berkane, near the Algerian border, weaving handbags for export from discarded plastic bags.

Twenty-one women now work on the project, which also includes literacy classes. The illiteracy rate in Morocco is about 52 percent but among women in rural areas it has been estimated at 80 percent.

Faiza hopes the project will lead to others to promote education and help girls to go and remain in school.

"In these areas, girls are taken out of school after they are 12 years old because the families don't have the means to pay for further studies, and it is not in the culture either," she said.

Faiza was educated in Morocco but studied telecommunications engineering in France. After graduating, she worked briefly as a consultant before going to Mexico and later Sri Lanka to work with Planet Finance, an NGO which promotes micro-finance all over the world.

She was interviewed in Kuala Lumpur, where she coordinates projects in Sri Lanka and other countries in the region.

"From when I was a kid, I wanted to help people. Life gave me things and took things away from me, but not this wish to help people," she said.



IFASSEN is a fair trade project that was launched by Faiza in partnership between the Government of France and her hometown in Morocco. Through IFASSEN and with her two partners, Faiza has been working to decrease the number of plastic bags in the environment, while helping Moroccan women receive a fair income.

IFASSEN, which means ‘hands’ in Berber, employs 21 craftswomen in the making of fashion accessories. The women collect the discarded plastic bags that litter their community’s fields and streets, then clean, dry and weave them together with local alfa grass that they pick. The women use a method of basket weaving that is traditional to the region. It takes about 100 plastic bags to make a typical IFASSEN bag, a small but hopeful percentage of the 2.5 billion plastic bags discarded in Morocco each year.

The project has won several awards, including a prestigious award from the French Ministry of Finance. IFASSEN's products are exported to France, Italy, Japan, Spain and the United States. "A wise man was saying that we must be the change we want to see in the world,” Faiza said. “I have grown up with the will to change things little by little, even through a tiny contribution.”

Currently Appreciating:
*Blossoming flowers and their fragrant scent.

Teaching Amean to count. I went over to his house, originally to tutor his older sister in English. We used almonds to solve addition problems. By the end, he counted to 30 almost perfectly!

*The start of 6:30 walks in the nearby field. 10 ladies came out today!

*Researching about Canada and coming up with lesson plans. It's not as boring/tedious as I thought! Instead, it's a refreshing change of pace.

*On Monday, a foreman came to the Women's Center to scope out the building. After talking to the president and secretary, he gave us a list of all the building materials and amounts needed. On Tuesday, a mean who organizes children's activities came to talk about possible plans. Although we're still waiting on the right to build, they have things set in motion.

*Switching between three good reads: "The Essential Gandhi" by Mahatma Gandhi, "Writing to Change the World" by Mary Pipher and "The Food Revolution" by John Robbins.

*Juicy oranges and fresh strawberries.


Jonathan "Yousef d Al-Maghrib" said...

You should post your mica bag. It'll be interesting to see how her product colors will change now that the government has outlawed black micas.

Anonymous said...

IS VERY GOOD..............................