Empowering Women in the Atlas is, first and foremost, the story of a friendship and a human connection Lamia Bazir has built with the local women of a small village in the Middle Atlas Mountains of Morocco.
It was during a training outside the classroom, while she was an undergraduate student, that Lamia first met the women of an impoverished rural village, and was completely mesmerized by their energy, intelligence, and vision.
“These women often depicted as poor, needy, and marginalized had it all! The solutions were in them! They just needed connections, expertise, and true commitment.”
That day, Lamia made that commitment. She remained connected to the village for almost 4 years and assisted women inject a new dynamic in their village and foster change in their community.
Through the participatory approach, Lamia supported the women create their own local association, build capacity, negotiate with local authorities, raise funds, and gather around a common collective project that will benefit their community. Empowering Women in the Atlas has launched a series of actions in favor of women and youth empowerment in the region, including an Entrepreneurship Program for 100 women in the Atlas, an exchange program for Youth from the mountains to Norway, a School support and rehabilitation program.
Lamia also mobilized young volunteers to support local women with expertise and creativity, and to promote values of public service and solidarity.
Now Empowering Women in the Atlas is a National Non profit that aims to:
- Bring focus on rural women not as recipients of aid, but rather as actors of change;
- Promote women and girls’ leadership and education;
- Develop an innovative model that shows the concrete dividends of gender equality in terms of bettering lives not only for women themselves but for men as well;
- Inspire other youth to take action in rural areas.
Empowering Women in the Atlas has three main ongoing projects:
1- The Hammam community center: A women lead project established through a participatory process for the women of the village of Adghagh. The project consisted in the construction of a sustainable solar powered, women- run multi service center that includes a health care center, a public bathhouse, an educational center, an administrative office for official documentation, and a women’s artifacts and carpet making workshop. the center is managed by the local women for the benefit by the whole community, more than 1500 people.
2- Exchange Program for rural youth established with the Municipality of Tingvoll in Norway (EU Erasmus funds) enabling young girls and boys aged between 13-17 to leave the boundaries of their villages and travel abroad for the first time in order to discover another culture, build new friendships, discover the Norvegian education system, and get a training in solar energy that is implemented in the Hammam women led project in Adghagh.
This program also includes the equipment fo a local school and the organization of extracurricular activities and workshops for more than 200 children in the village.
3- The Entrepreneruship program launched in september 2016 (MEPI US department of state funds) to train 100 women from the Middle Atlas region in financial autonomy environmental awareness, and entrepreneurship, and support them in developping their cooperatives and generating income through sustainable projects.