Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Morocco [Guest Post]

While I'm honeymooning in Europe, a few wonderful bloggers will be taking over my blog! I am so excited to be sharing these ladies with you!  Amber does a ton of traveling and today she is sharing a trip to Morocco and the warrior queen women there! 

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Before arriving in Morocco as a Peace Corps volunteer, I was afraid. Of course of the normal things- where was I going to live, how was I going to learn the language, what would I have to live without, would I be able to do it... but I was also very worried about making friends. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to since it is highly discouraged by the nuances of society for women to 'hang out' in the public sphere. I was overwhelmed, how was I supposed to meet women-folk to become friends with?

After arriving in our final site of Larache in May of 2012, I quickly realized that women create community wherever they go. In my English classes, which were made up of mostly women, I could see camaraderie develop instantly between them. Similarly as I met more women and became more involved with them, the feeling of community, when walking into a room full of women, was so thick it was tangible. I joined a women's workout class and was instantly welcomed, this was the same when I offered to teach yoga at a women's only gym, when I taught a women-only English class and when I started to attend an illiteracy class for only women. The formerly quiet, subdued women I saw on the street were lively, giddy and sometimes inappropriate around their fellow females. The instant I entered one of those situations, it gave me an 'at-home' welcome feeling, I was one of them and nothing would change that.

A women's only event

About a year into my Peace Corps service, these spaces were my sanctuary and these women, my lifelines. It was tough because I didn't always understand what was going on, but they created spaces where I felt safe and wanted. I began to attend meetings of a local women's association where they work to do plan programs specifically for women. These activists were quiet and respectful,but also got things done. I helped them plan two International Women's Days, a carnival day for Children and a Wedding Festival event. Likewise, they helped me to plan a Girl's Empowerment Camp.  The poise and strength that I saw these women portray in the face of adversity is astonishing. They always have to tiptoe a fine line between their traditional way of life and being involved and fulfilling their civic duty. This line is a treacherous boundary and these women border it with grace. It is their societal duty to take care of their families, oftentimes multi-generational. Which translates to making meals that often take 2-3 hours to make or walking their children to and from school, disciplining, cleaning, doing laundry by hand... all while attempting to make their mark on the world.

 Some friends and I at an events
International Women's Day 2013
There is a lot of bad press in Western media which infers that women have no power or control of their lives in the Middle East / North Africa. While in some perspectives this may be considered true. However, it is cruel to judge another culture. In my experience, being a Western women, it can be difficult to find a group of women that are truly wonderful and will be welcoming just because I am a women. I am not saying there aren't cliques in Morocco because there are, but the type of community that is instantaneously developed is unlike any other experience I have ever had. These women are not in direct competition with each other like some Western women are... whether it be to 'win' men or their attention, whether it be in a workplace setting etc. etc. These previously mentioned actions can be considered oppressive because of the competition to receive reactions, usually from men.  Obviously, my experience lies only with Morocco. There are different ways to be 'free' and 'strong' and to 'empower' other women. There are also different ways to be beautiful, stylish and fashionable. There are different ways to be women. I realize now that my smallest worry should have been about friends and a female community, my experience has been beyond wonderful and is something I will carry with me wherever I go.



Thank you so much for taking over my blog as I'm gallivanting [and hopefully not freezing] in Europe!

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