In March, I traveled south to report on the work of Abderrahim Ouarghidi, a High Atlas Foundation colleague and director of programs for Marrakech. Abderrahim and other members of HAF filled my days with interesting perspectives and visits to rural sites around Marrakech and Essaouira.
What kind of opportunities are you looking for?
My education, work and volunteer background, it’s all related to working in the public sector. I would be happiest working for the government, an NGO, research facilities, research in social and economic policies. Ideally, I would want to work for an organization that dealt with social and economic development, or progressive social and economic opportunities for underprivileged or underserved populations.
Lack of education can lead to unsafe attempts at ending pregnancies, as in O.’s case. This situation can also lead students to stumble into potentially violent sexual situations. It can also cause them to create or passively observe these situations due to a lack of knowledge regarding respect for others’ sexual boundaries. According to Pionati, students have reported that the date rape drug Rohypnol is common in the campus town. Young female students, she says, are especially susceptible to sexual violence.
Could you describe to me the Peace Corps culture (in Morocco)? I know you talk a lot about your “stage” (the volunteer group with which Cheng trained and arrived in Morocco). When I came (to Ksar El Kbir), (I realized) you guys really feel like a family, with all the inside jokes, they way you were cooking together, everyone’s cleaning up, everyone’s helping each other. I’m wondering how that developed, and if it’s a specifically “Morocco” thing.
I think that it’s Peace Corps worldwide, because I’ve had other friends who’ve done Peace Corps, and they become very close to their training groups. We call our training groups here in Morocco “stages.” It’s a French word. In Morocco, at least recently, the stages have been really big. (My stage) started with 95 people.
But (Peace Corps) is a difficult experience.
Students at University X can easily protect themselves against unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections: they have access to emergency contraception on campus as well as confidential counseling and medical services. They can freely find condoms at one of the town’s four pharmacies as well as at a downtown bodega and the public hospital.
On campus, however, rumors regarding STIs, unplanned pregnancies and abortions, in particular, swirl. When asked about rates of abortion and STIs on campus, students invariably mention stories concerning “a friend of a friend” or someone “who used to be at the university.”
What about learning Darija (Moroccan Arabic)? Tell me about that.
It was a struggle at the beginning, just because it’s so different from all the other languages (Cantonese Chinese and Spanish) that I speak. I think that for me it was a little bit easier to learn, because I am multilingual already. My problem is actually where I live, I speak a lot of English, because a lot of the counterparts and people I work with speak English or understand English pretty well. Additionally, where I live it’s an Amazigh site, so the only time I hear Arabic is when people are talking [directly] to me. Otherwise they’re just speaking to each other in Tachelhit. I’ve gotten to the point where I can understand… generally, what they’re talking about. I know what I know, and I’m able to do the work that I need to do.
11 p.m., springtime, somewhere between Ifrane and Fes. In a hospital that has already closed for the night, a potbellied man in his fifties and two young women negotiate the price for an illegal procedure: 2,500 Moroccan dirhams for two injections and a pill. Hugging one woman, the man leads her into a back room and tells her to pull down her pants and underwear. O., graduate of University X, asks herself if this is a nightmare. (more…)