Over the past six years I have had the opportunity to work intimately with
locals on the Igherm Restoration Project in the remote region of Zawiya
Ahansal, Morocco. We have successfully restored one of the region’s eight
igherms (fortified granaries) and are in the initial phases of two more
restorations through the generosity of American Donors and partnerships
with the Moroccan Ministry of Culture and the local community association
The initial goals of the Igherm Restoration Project were to preserve the
region’s cultural heritage, through the restoration of their igherms, and
increase literacy rates in the region and supplement the inadequate
government education through the establishment of community education
projects within the restored igherms. Through our work other community
needs have come to light that are too great to ignore, especially that of
women’s and newborn’s health.
Rural Morocco has one of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates
in the developing world. This is due to many circumstances, including
remoteness, traditional beliefs and distance from clinics and hospitals.
Partnering with the Global Midwife Education Foundation,
www.midwifeeducation.org, we are currently in Morocco establishing a
program that will train 8 to 12 traditional birth attendants in 2011.
These birth attendants, along with a newly establishment government
clinic, will ultimately serve the region’s population of over 10,000
This initiative compliments the goals of preserving the region?s cultural
heritage and decreasing illiteracy and will brighten the future of young
women such as Saadiya.
Saadiya’s bright eyes reflect the energy and innocence of a 17 year old.
She lives in the village of Aguddim; with a population of just over 1000
people it is one of the largest villages within 100 kilometers.
Saadiya giggles when she mentions her engagement to a
young man from Ouarzazate. Ouarzazate lies just over the rugged Atlas
Mountains to the east and is a big city in her eyes; it has hotels,
schools and even a hospital. She will get married when she turns 18, the
youngest legal age for marriage in Morocco.
She is able to read and write only a little due to her third grade
education. She desperately wanted to continue her schooling but
sacrificed her education because her family needed her at home to help
with field work, house work and her two younger sisters.
At this point in life she will probably never accomplish her hope of
higher education but because she has the rare opportunity to marry a man
from the “city” she will have an opportunity most women from Aguddim never
will, to give birth in a hospital.
“I am afraid to die in childbirth,” she admits.