Maternal and Infant Health in Morocco: Women’s Rights and Family in Islam is a global health program offered by McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, designed to provide undergraduate and graduate students with an integrated linguistic, cultural, and public health experience in the Islamic African country of Morocco.

To apply, the McMaster Applications Portal is Now Open!  

Applications are due February 22, 2016.  Visit:


The course introduces students to maternal and infant health issues in the third world and considers a range of social, religious, epidemiological, economic, technological, legal, and family issues that impact birth, pregnancy, motherhood, and the health of newborns and children in Morocco.  Students also gain a basic knowledge of Islamic religion, Moroccan traditional (Islamic) medicine, and medical anthropology.

In the urban component (3 weeks), students will learn about the social determinants of health, the array of social factors that affect women’s reproductive health and infant and child health:

  • Tuberculosis and HIV morbidity, and national policies for their prevention in Morocco, from the National Institute of Hygiene.
  • Violence against women, marital rape, child abandonment, and unwed motherhood.
  • Feminist, Islamic, and international NGO’s that support women and children.
  • AIDS prevention and the work of the AIDS NGO “Association de Lutte Contre le SIDA,” which advocates for AIDS infected persons, studies AIDS prevalence, and trains prostitutes, MSM, and illegal sub-Saharan African immigrants as AIDS peer educators.
  • US health interventions in Morocco (Peace Corps, USAID).
  • Students will live with home-stay families.
  • Students will learn Moroccan colloquial Arabic at AMIDEAST–no previous Arabic knowledge necessary. AMIDEAST also teaches for the US State Department (Arabic Critical Language Scholarship program), Fulbright, and has taught for the U.S. Peace Corps.
  • Site visits to ancient Islamic cities, shantytowns, and industrial areas will introduce students to health determinants of the built environment and traditional Islamic forms of sanitation, water provision, etc.

In the rural component (1 week), students will have a hands-on fieldwork experience that focuses on community health, the challenges of providing maternal and infant health care outside the state support structure, and the environmental determinants of health. Students will:

  • Hike out to remote villages that do not have water systems, and bivouac/camp
  • Interview midwives and local NGO leaders through a translator.
  • Study water sources, water usage, conduct water quality testing in homes and rivers, help local women gather water, study the relationship between water and girls’ schooling.
  • Learn about traditional birth practices and beliefs about nursing, women’s health, and childcare.
  • Consider nutrition, especially for infants, pregnant women, and nursing mothers.
  • Help to plan a Community Health Day, a popular health exercise for local people.
  • Lodge with the shaykh of the Hansali Sufi order in his home, and enjoy all meals with his family.

Learn about the Atlas Cultural Foundation, the NGO which receives students in Zawiya Ahansal.

The credits for the program differ from program to program.  It counts towards the ELE of the BHSc (6 credits), and 3 credits of humanities or social science credit, with 3 credits of Arabic.  Study-abroad fellowships and student financial aid (OSAP) apply to the course tuition.  Students each complete an individual research project, thus the Morocco program can satisfy experiential learning for a number of academic programs.

To apply, the Applications Portal is Now Open!  Visit:


For questions about the course, please contact:

  • The Program director, Dr. Ellen Amster, at amstere@mcmaster.ca 
  • The Program assistant, Nathan Coschi, at coschi@mcmaster.ca

If you are in the Bachelor of Health Sciences Program, please also contact Jen Landicho, Jennifer.Landicho@learnlink.mcmaster.ca.

The program leader, Dr. Ellen Amster, is the Hannah Chair in the History of Medicine, and associate professor in the Departments of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics and the Department of History, and has fifteen years of medical fieldwork experience in Morocco.  She is the author of “Medicine and the Saints: Science, Islam and the Colonial Encounter in Morocco, 1877-1956, from University of Texas Press (2013). 

Architectural visit to the Qarawiyyine mosque in Fez

Architectural visit to the Qarawiyyine mosque in Fez


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s