Today we had the pleasure of busing out to Casablanca to visit the Association Solidarite Feminine. The NGO was founded in 1985 by the prominant Aïcha Ech-Chenna to enable unwed mothers keep their infants and receive social and financial support so as to reintegrate into society. After hearing many tales of the incredible work of Aïcha Ech-Chenna, it was an exciting opportunity to eat and convers with the “Mother Teresa of Morocco”.
Over the course of our stay here, we are slowing learning of the true plight of unwed mothers in Moroccan society; these women face a variety of obstacles foreign to a Canadian woman in the same situation. Extramarital sex is illegal in the country. The social stigma combined with the criminal repression leads to social and economic marginalization. This background knowledge allowed for a true appreciation of the social significance of her work. The NGO provides work experience by training women to work in their restaurants, the bakery, or the hammam, and provides the very required childcare services.
It was powerful to hear the motivation and the stories that lead to the creation of this organization. Aïcha shared with us both success stories of some of the women who had passed through the organization as well as some of her own personal struggles steming from her work. In 2000, an imam issues a fatwa against her, calling her work immoral; public support of the King helped to restore public opinion. We have heard repeatedly about the oppression and degradation of dignity of unwed mothers in Morocco. Sitting in the restaurant, watching the women serve food, and interact with both us and each other showed that these incredible women are rising above the social stigma placed upon them. During our long conversation, I could see the women sit together and enjoy their own lunch with much laughter and chatter.
The afternoon left me with a cookbook and a stomach full of the delicious food, along with an incredible hope for the future.