Dear blog readers, it’s been an eon since I blogged, but the good news is, I’m still alive, I was only in cyber-hybernation. It’s almost like there’s too much going on, I can either live, or blog, nawmean? The Amal Center continues to blossom and grow in a beautiful way. I was there yesterday for the tsunami wave of couscous customers. It was epic. All 180 of them seemed to have agreed to arrive at exactly the same time, which was 12:47 (hashtag invade Amal?). To make matters more…interesting, we were working with a newbie crew: our 5th class of 16 women just started a few days ago. They are a very cool group of ladies, beautiful souls and smiles, lots of potential there just waiting for the right conduit. And yes, the chef used his chef voice. Yet, amazingly, things went smoothly, and there was much eating of couscous and merriment. Only one customer got scary mad (she was served couscous in a white plate, not a tajine. I totally get it, it doesn’t taste the same. Amends were made quite hastily, and she ended up relaxing and enjoying a pot of tea in the garden for a good while after her meal).
Anyway, I need your help. See, me and Amal Center have been selected for a contest, called “Women for Change”. It’s kind of a bummer that there has to be a competition among organizations working for good, but that’s how things work. We need people to vote for Amal, if we get the most votes by October 15th, then we win a prize of 25,000 Euros. The money would go entirely towards funding small businesses for some of our graduates. I can’t tell you how excited I’d be to see some of them run their own businesses. The link is here (and I’ll include it again at the bottom if you just want to keep reading) http://www.fondationorange.com/Nora-Belahcen-Fitzgerald-2744 (You’ll hear me speaking French, subtitled back into English that is, in places, syntactically French). I’m speaking French here because the competition is run by a French company, the Orange Foundation (related to the Orange phone service provider). We will not know who got the most votes until the actual awards ceremony on October 16th, in France. I’d love to win this for my dear sisters, they truly deserve it.
Nearly 60 women have now graduated from the Amal cooking training course, around 80% of them are now employed in good jobs. In each graduating class, there have been one or two who have the ambition and drive to be entrepreneurs. In October, we’ll be running our first Entrepreneurship Incubator, a 2-week course were 15 of these women will learn about business from a number of professionals. The idea is that they come out of the course with their own business plan. It would be awesome to then have this prize money to actually fund some of these projects.
Someone asked me today if I think that the problem with women’s situation in Morocco is society’s mentality, and that we have to change that in order to advance women’s status. Here’s what I say. Women need the tools to be empowered economically. They need training, skills and work opportunities. That’s a concrete, achievable goal. They need to know that nebulous, abstract things like society’s mentality are mental constructs and false barriers to success.
Some of the trainees at Amal Center told me about a really powerful exercise that they did in one of their group life-coaching sessions. The life coach gave them each a mirror, they were asked to look at themselves in the mirror and say, The way I see myself is more important that the way society sees me. The way I see myself is what defines me. Several of the women shared with me how powerful this type of thinking is for them, and how they realized they should stop worrying about how they are perceived, and start to work on what they actually want do with their lives, their life plan.
That’s why I’m harassing you now again to vote for me, which is really a vote for them. Please also harass your friends and family to vote. We have until October 15th. Here’s the link again. http://www.fondationorange.com/Nora-Belahcen-Fitzgerald-2744