A Postcard From: Maryam Jahanbin ’19

Amal Means Hope

This summer I have had the incredible opportunity to intern at the Amal Association for Women’s Empowerment in Marrakech, Morocco. This organization is dedicated to bettering the lives of disadvantaged women in the city, training them in cooking and catering to receive jobs and reach a point of self-sustainability.

The way in which Amal Association undertakes this process of empowerment is astoundingly wholesome, expanding the parameters of disadvantagement and betterment as they grow as an NGO. While they are fairly new — founded and run almost entirely by women — their impact is strong and lasting.

Amal seeks to find these women of various disadvantaged statuses, including low to no income single mothers, widows, rape victims, and ex-prostitutes, as well as women with disabilities — focusing at the moment with the deaf and mute community, and the down syndrome community. These listed traits are obvious factors that cause hardship in finding work, in supporting oneself, in supporting a family. For this reason, Amal was born.

As I entered into Amal and all the realities of this association, I couldn’t be more impressed. My role has been quite flexible — editing and writing various documents for media and a future cookbook, helping in the kitchen when there’s a big event, and helping with cooking classes (which are open to anyone). I have had the chance to learn a little bit about the different parts of this horizontally organized workplace, where administration can be found in the kitchens at times and kitchen staff can be found in the offices at times. As I had the chance to move fluidly through these different sections in my work, I witnessed the process of empowerment as it manifests. The women who were selected to take part in the Amal training program at the time were in the middle of this process, and I met these incredible ladies as they made their way to departure into the workforce. From the start of my time until the end, the change and growth in these women was palpable, as they gained confidence in their own abilities and learned to trust themselves as beings in our multifaceted dimensions. It was a constant reminder for me too, and for everyone surrounding and supporting this endeavor, to trust and enjoy oneself as one exists in such an environment.

Everyday at work — after Ramadan was over — we ate lunch all together. The Moroccan style of dining calls only for one big dish of food per table, where we all squished and huddled around a round table, reaching to the middle to dip bread or spoon into succulent remains of the day. I loved this part of the day, and will always have a place in my heart for Amal.