Coming from a town marked by the closure of the coal mines, Jemaa shares the story of her Cooperation and DEVelopment Association. ‘CODEV’ set out to improve the living conditions of women and children. My father fought to give me the chance of an education. Today, I want to give that chance to the children from the town.’
When the coal mining started, the town of Jerada in Morocco was an economic centre for the region. Many families migrated to the area to become the workforce in the mines. These closed in 2001 and many families found themselves without work. Some ex-miners, women, young people and children continued to mine in secret. Many died in the mines, others died of silicosis¹.
CODEV was created in 2006. After a survey in a disadvantaged neighbourhood which revealed the key need for literacy, the first classrooms came into being. The association also supported the creation of Income Generating Projects for women. ‘The first actions were aimed at young women who worked with me in a plastics factory which closed in 2005. Motivated, they created a cooperative to produce couscous and other dried wheat products.’
The women’s experience demonstrated the need to look after the children, the main victims of the mine closures, poverty, and violence and often they’d had no education. The teachers like Fayza went to find them in isolated villages. ‘I got around on my moped and went to the camp several miles away, running an unusual risk for a young woman in these very traditional regions. To have somewhere to meet, we did up an abandoned shipping container, painting and decorating it. After a while, I established trust with the children, and when my moped broke down, they accompanied me home.’ ‘We organise outings but these are limited due to lack of funding. I think of a child who went on an outing to the sea and thought it was a swimming pool: that made me cry.’
In 2015, women and girls from the mines told of the changes in their lives due to the literacy programme and further education. This experience will be repeated in 2016 with the children.
JEMAA, CODEV ASSOCIATION, MOROCCO
1. Lung disease brought on by inhalation of dust particles.