Hundreds of Tangier medina women have graduated from the literacy program which TALIM does in partnership with FTAM, the Fondation Tanger al-Madina, a Moroccan NGO. The basis is teaching them to read and write in Arabic, but we also offer cooking, sewing, and foreign language classes, thanks to a number of volunteers from the expatriate community.
Recently we hosted two more events with the women, where their horizons were further widened. The above photo shows Mitchell Chanelis of Stories Exchange, where, thanks to a hookup organized by Rachid El Mziryahi of the American Language Center, and interpretation provided by two student interns from the Fahd School of Translation, the women were able to converse with American playwright and storytelling coach Robbie McCauley, currently doing a residency at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles.
Here is a video link to the storytelling session.
“Our women” – we tend to say that in reference to the students in the literacy program – represent rich ground for the storyteller, and Robbie’s and Mitch’s encouragement elicited a number of touching tales of parental loss, early marriage, divorce… the stuff of life.
One woman, who hesitated because “she didn’t have anything interesting to say,” turned out to have a fascinating story. There we were, sitting in a room we’ve begun to set up as a “community museum” (within our own museum), dedicated to the women’s stories of living in the medina. And the woman who had nothing to say proceeded to show us a photo on our wall which featured her grandfather, who was an official in the employ of the pre-independence Sultan of Morocco!
The women also participated in a presentation by Mohammed Abid, director of research at the Institut Pasteur in Tangier. Abid had given a presentation on food safety at the AIMS Public Health conference in Tunis in 2011, and this time it was tailored to the concerns of women trying to keep their families safe and healthy.
Abid – who brought along two medical colleagues to form a panel for the questions that followed – was very impressed with the level of awareness of the women. He wants to return to take up other subjects of interest: diabetes, hypertension, gynecology. This is really of great benefit to the women, who don’t always have the possibility of getting expert advice – for free.