Women’s cooperative in Tahannaout. Left to right: Said (CARE Morocco advisor on cooperatives; Battina (Nejat’s daughter); Nejat (founder/ president of the cooperative); Esma (Battina’s friend and supporter of the coop); Claire (member of the CARE Marrakech team); Anne-Sophie (ADP of CARE Morocco and senior staff on the ADEP project).

Barbara Grantham – Travel Diary, Part Three – Morocco

Recently I returned from my first trip to visit CARE projects in Africa since I became President and CEO of CARE Canada in April 2020. It was a wonderful and inspiring visit to Zambia and Morocco, meeting incredible people and learning how CARE and our partners are supporting women’s leadership. Here is an excerpt from the diary I kept throughout my travels:

A group of women sitting in chairs all facing the front of the room.
Members of one of the newer VSLA (Village Savings and Loans) groups started by CARE earlier this year as part of the Women's Empowerment through Sustainable Entrepreneurship (WESE) project. Barbara Grantham/CARE

Day 1

On my first full day in Morocco, we were back on the road: Anne-Sophie Vasseur, Program Coordinator at CARE Morocco, and I headed to Marrakech, where we met the CARE Morocco team of fifteen. This core group delivers our large Global Affairs Canada-funded project WESE (Women's Empowerment through Sustainable Entrepreneurship), led by Imanne Akhezzane in the Marrakech office and Anne-Sophie in the Casablanca office.

Marrakech is an amazing city—the history, the architecture, the ambience—all of it is remarkable. The heat, too, is remarkable, for it was 43 degrees Celsius both days we were there. Thank goodness for linen dresses!

After a short visit with the Marrakech team in the office, some of the team and I were off again into the Atlas (Al Haouz) mountains south of the city. We drove to a small community building where we met one of the newer VSLA (Village Savings and Loans) groups started by CARE earlier this year as part of the WESE project. It was a truly remarkable afternoon.

The 17 women in this VSLA greeted us with a tea ceremony, we had lunch made up of Moroccan specialties with the VSLA President and two other representatives, and then I observed a regular meeting of the group. After we had a more informal opportunity to get to know one another, several of the members gave personal testimonials about the VSLA experience and what it means for them.

We shared tea and treats and got to learn about some of the enterprises the women are launching. A few of us had a henna treatment for our hands, and mostly we chatted, learned new words, shared stories and pictures of children and family, and talked about what this experience with CARE means—for their independence, for their livelihood, for fulfilling their own dreams and those of their families.

I was, and will always be, deeply moved and humbled by that afternoon.

4 women standing together in a line for a photo. The woman on the far right is holding a tea tray with a tea pot and various items on it.
Latifa (second from the left), CARE Morocco VSLA facilitator, with the Executive of the VSLA and two members of the VSLA. Barbara Grantham/CARE
Close up of hands with recently applied henna on them.
Henna on Barbara's hands.

Day 2

Today we headed from Marrakech back up into the mountains as we visited a CARE-supported women's cooperative in Tahnaout. We went to the headquarters of the cooperative, which produces beautiful textiles and met with the coop founder, Nejat, her daughter Battina, and Battina's friend Esma.

This co-op (made up of close to 20 members) makes textiles and wearable goods that are environmentally sustainable, affordable, and provide the women with a dignified source of income. With their daughters getting involved, they are now learning new production techniques that utilize technology, new marketing techniques, and more.

It was empowering and exciting to see these women in action—and yes (ahem), I did do some shopping. After a delicious lunch back in the Marrakech office with the CARE team, Anne-Sophie and I headed back to Casablanca, which was less hot than Marrakech but much more humid.

Three women facing the camera, standing in front of two big signs about the cooperative (not in English). Their hands are clasped at their waste and they are all smiling.
Nejat (center), founder/president of the cooperative, standing with her daughter Battina, and Battina's friend Esma. Barbara Grantham/CARE
A group of five women stand in an outside doorway. They are grouped together for the photo.
Barbara and Latifa, CARE Morocco VSLA facilitator, with three members of the VSLA.

Day 3

Hlima, CARE Morocco Country Director, and I went to Rabat, the capital of Morocco, to visit with the Canadian Ambassador to Morocco, Nell Stewart, along with Jean Touchette, the Head of Cooperation for Canada in Morocco. We had a great meeting with several items for Hlima and our teams to follow up on in the coming weeks.

A selfie of Barbara and Hilma. Their faces are at the bottom left of the photo and they are standing in front of the gate to the embassy.
Barbara (left) with Hlima, CARE Morocco Country Director in front of the Canadian and Australian embassies in Rabat, Morocco. Barbara Grantham/CARE

The Final Day

I spent a good part of the day with the CARE Morocco team at the Casablanca office, getting a sense of their wider operations, and the longer-term strategy for CARE’s presence in the country. We finished off a wonderful week with a team dinner at a traditional Moroccan restaurant, which included beautiful live music. 

With that, it is back to Ottawa, with one new piece of baggage for the, um, shopping that has occurred.

It has been a remarkable experience for me to see CARE's work and the impact it is having on so many, to spend time with our partners and supporters, and to meet and get to know the teams who so proudly work for, lead, and represent CARE in this part of the world. It was so special to meet women and girls, men and boys, who have improved their lives and their communities because of our collective quest for a more equal world. I will always remember how it felt to see, understand, and be able to speak more resonantly to our goal of investing in her leadershipfor it truly does make a difference in the lives of everyone around her.