The Bereber kindergarten

The Berber / Women's nursery in the High Atlas.
The center that allows older girls to continue studying.


Living conditions in the Moroccan High Atlas are very harsh, especially harsh for women. The summits are covered with snow and soon the elevation will drop. The mountain Berber populations prepare for the cold and the tasks multiply. At this time the thermometers do not exceed 10 degrees Celsius during the day and in the winter they will reach 6 negative degrees. The stoves are the only sources of heating in the houses and the already heavy work in the field, to the collection of water from the river (the towns lack sanitation) is now added the collection of firewood to feed them, a task that women take care. Firewood in winter has more value than bread and all houses have a place next to the house to store it. For Aicha, the worst of winter is mud, because it does not allow them to leave the house.


Ait Yakoub is one of those towns, located between the mountains in the province of Midelt, it belongs to the Berber or Amazihg ethnic group, as it is called in their language, and they have their own culture and language. In the Berber culture, the man is the sole family head and exercises control over the rest, but the woman bears the weight of the house, work and family. They are the first to get up, prepare the children and the house, go to work in the fields with the man and return to continue taking care of the family. On them also falls the responsibility of maintaining the honor of the family, acting in a predetermined way in the codes of conduct of the ethnic group and being a faithful and fruitful wife. The bar is very high and social pressure demands a continuous effort.


They are chasing that weight from childhood, not only for the early work helping the mother, for the patriarch they pose a danger to the loss of family honor and it is difficult to allow them to move away from home to finish their studies.
La Moudawana is the family code of Moroccan law. Addresses issues related to marriage, divorce, polygamy, inheritance, and child custody. Thanks to increased international attention to women's rights, an Action Plan for the Integration of Women in Development was created in Morocco. In 2003 King Mohamed VI formed a commission to reform a law advantageous to men and thus free women from social injustices. The reforms were approved by parliament in 2004 and supported by international institutions despite leaving the door open to exceptional justifications, such as polygamy of the man if all parties consent to take a second wife and if he can support the two families.


The new law grants women the freedom to choose a husband, raises the age of marriage to 18 years, ends the imposed marriages, grants the woman the right to request a divorce, and prohibits rejection by which the husband he could return the woman to her parents' house and obtain compensation.


Thirteen years have passed since the reforms and the changes are not reflected in rural society. The lack of knowledge of the law and the poor application of the rule by the courts, allow polygamy, marriages with minors to continue to exist, and women have hardly improved their conditions. A change in the judicial system and in the penal code is necessary to adapt it to the new Moudawana. It was not until last spring that a law against gender violence was passed. The organization Amnesty International has expressed its concern at the absence of exhaustive definitions of the forms of violence, the perpetuation of derogatory gender stereotypes and the fact that they do not resolve the obstacles that victims encounter in accessing justice.


Time has shown that the changes have been superficial and that we have not believed in a complete and real reform. The strong sense of traditionalism and the lack of determination of the public bodies mean that awareness campaigns do not end with gender inequalities in Morocco.


In Ait Yakoub the association El Bassma has rented a house and turned it into a nursery. With this initiative they have managed to free the girls from the task of taking care of their little siblings while their mothers work and thus be able to continue their studies. The house opened its doors last November and at the moment they are trying to gain the trust of the local inhabitants. The small school and kindergarten now have 30 children from 20 local families and will serve as a door to start other projects to improve the lives of the women in the village.

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