By Rachael Diniega, Multimedia Committee Member (Staj 99)
They thought their work wouldn’t sell, that people would doubt their abilities and demean their success in creating a women’s cooperative—and yet in October 2018, the women of Cooperative Nahda in the Middle Atlas town of Oued Ifrane cheered and clapped when artisan leader Mustapha Chaouai announced their most recent sales success through the online platform of the collective Anou.
I met with the cooperative at the request of a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) living in their town, Jan Sojka (Staj 98), pictured above, who worked with them during her two-year service from 2016 to 2018. “My overall experience in Oued Ifrane has been filled with generous hospitality and a familial bond with many of the locals in this Amazigh village, “ she said. “Throughout my two years, I was met with endless invitations for meals, tea, henna, and celebrations. Throughout my service, I was lucky to encounter Cooperative Nahda, which is a group of female artisans who specialize in carpet weaving and are assisted by a talented, dedicated blacksmith, Mustapha Chaouai. They quickly took me under their wing and were always willing to host visitors and participate in various activities, such as design workshops affiliated with Anou or study abroad programs with American high school students. I have observed them to be a hardworking group that also has a great sense of humor and lively spirit. It is easy to see why they are identified as one of Anou’s strongest cooperatives.”
Peace Corps Trainees (PCTs) of the 100th group of volunteers in Morocco sat in on our meeting with the twenty women of the cooperative and Mustapha to learn more about life in their training site. Said PCT Anna LaRocco Masi, "I have met the women of the co-op several times, and each visit, I grow more impressed and inspired by what they are doing. They do not give up even when they run into business-related obstacles. Meeting them is an amazing cultural experience because I got to see what local Moroccan women are doing on a daily basis to succeed for themselves and their families."
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