Blog post september 15 2009.
My friend and fellow volunteer and I want to give you an idea of what work is like in our volunteer service with the Peace Corps, we hope that it illustrates some of what we must encounter and how we go about it to reach certain goals.
The female identity we share with the moroccan women we work with enables us to work together and enpower and inspire one onother through the relationships we are a part of day to day.
Every day we wake up and know that we will encounter a woman and she will touch our hearts. I will meet up with a friend and she will greet me with a kiss on the hand and I will respond with a kiss on her head.
As women, many of us have and innate desire to hold each other accountable and set a standard of living while encouraging each other to live up to it. When we sit with the women outside before going in at dusk we witness how women share each others lives with one another. Women advise each other on childhood discipline, ways of preparing food for the family, techniques for home health care and remedies, and emotional support. Down to taking splinters out of each others hands from the daily greens and wood collection shows their care and interdependance.
Living here we have been taken in as sisters, daughters and aunties. We have been neutralized so as not to be seen as strangers, foreigners. We have been told, "stay here to live, you are now tashlheit". Because of the mutual desire to become familiar we have been able to enter and walk through the door of intimacy in our groups of rural berber women. Our shared lives allow us to inspire each other and be open to the group mentality. What we say does not go unheard because we are also known to listen.
We have found much satisfaction and 'baraka' (blessing) in being given the opportunnity to be in the inner circle, though we are technically "tinbrra" (outsiders). Our expectations that were held prior to coming have been met and superceded.
The lives of our peers have tought us much about being a woman and what it means to live well in rural berber morocco. After Fatiha become a mother and saw her husband come and leave as a migrant worker far away she took on a key role in her household. As appropriate in these areas, her inlaws house became her home. She became the steward of the family along with other daughters in law that are to become new sisters. Collecting fodder for the animals, preparing food, taking care of elderly inlaws and children, housework, and keeping up the family name is a daily endeavor.
As we began building trust, our eyes were openned to women's desires and needs either spoken or evident in their daily lives. We were able to take on a listening role and think about what we could do as volunteers to encourage improvement or change toward a better quality of life. Through their evident needs they inspired which direction we would take as volunteers and community members.
Health education and specifically an improvement in personal hygiene practices were evident needs we could address, and saw as important. Our clinic staff were aware of this and further encouraged us to work towards finding a strategy to meet the womens goal for improvement in their lifestyle.
As learned in Peace Corps training we implemented the "project development strategy".
It is as follows:
-find key players in the community that should be involved
-Asses the sustainable solution together
-create goals based on needs
-create strategies to reach goals
-design the implementation of strategy
-put into action
-asses effectiveness and learn what improvements should be made for the future
Based on this timeline, we aproached our needs at hand. Knowing the needs, the people we determined as key players are the women in the community, the clinic staff, ministry of health and PC health program managers. In discussing the needs with each other and the key players we came up with a 2 part idea. We thought of something women could make for themselves that would encourage women's personal hygiene and resourcefulness: a cloth, re-usable menstrual pad. Along with this we concluded it would be important to have periodic educational talks addressing women's health, including personal hygiene and menstruation. We thought of strategies that eventually grew into a small business project and health education that would be 20 topics long. The topics to be covered include: How the body works, the female timeline, hygiene, menstruation, family planning, pregnancy, prenatal care, birth, infertility, miscarriage, baby's health, breasts, breast feeding, nutrition, male general health, AIDS, STI's, problems and going to someone, clinic, health while working, Ramadan, mental and emotional health, women's rights/ mudawana, needs of women, and talking to daughters.
In thinking about the cloth menstrual pads we came up with the idea of presenting the design to the local women's co-op. Although this is still in progress we have a basic strategy for implementation that we will present to the women and hopefully together work towards the goal: having cloth menstrual pads available for local women to buy at a low cost.
Currently the project is ready to initiate,it is only a matter of time. The key players are a core factor in the implementation and meeting the goals, without them, the project will not happen.
We are now working on the logistics. Where will we have the educational talks?, when?, Who will be there and how will we inform them that they are available? and so on.
In order for development to be effective it needs to be sustainable. One important way of increasing the probability is making sure the community is involved and active in the projects. It would be innefective if we came and told people what they should fo without them taking it in, agreeing, understanding and making the decision for themselves.