Once out-of-school or out-of-work, 3 Moroccan girls chart brighter futures

By Jillian Slutzker

November 3, 2016

In Morocco’s Marrakesh-Tensift-Al Haouz, up to 14,000 children are already working or are at great risk of becoming agricultural and domestic laborers. When children drop out of school, they are even more vulnerable.

Hayat, Laila and Kaoutar were once among this group of vulnerable out-of-school youth. But with support from the Promise Pathways project they are now on a path to a brighter future that includes education and fulfilling employment.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Labor and implemented by Creative Associates International, the project aims to reduce child labor by working with communities—particularly youth—and the government to promote quality educational and learning opportunities for youth younger than age 15. It works jointly with youth, parents, schools, communities and the government to increase school attendance and mitigate early drop out.

For youth of legal working age, the project provides safe and productive employment alternatives through vocational training and referral assistance that links jobseekers with a network of service providers.

The Promise Pathways project was able to support Hayat, Laila and Kaoutar, and dozens of other youth, in building brighter futures thanks to local partnerships. These local partners include: Entraide Nationale (a Ministry of Social Development agency), the Democratic League for Women’s Rights, Association Haut et Fort, the Federation of the High Atlas Association, Complex Educatif Aghbalou, the president of the Setti Fadma Commune, El Amane Association and Restaurant Letchine.

Hayat: Cooking up a brighter future with new skills as a chef

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Once out-of-school and without workforce skills, Hayat is now a trained chef at a top restaurant in Marrakesh.

Hayat was in the sixth grade when she dropped out of school to try to help take care of her mother, sick father and four brothers, one of whom was suffering from cancer. But with little education or training, she found she had few options for a bright future.

Now 18 years old, she is a chef at a top-ranked restaurant in Marrakech, where she also completed an internship. This transformation in Hayat’s life from vulnerable and out-of-school to skilled and employed is thanks to the Promise Pathways project.

“When Promise Pathways reached out to me, I benefited from many things: studying baking and pastries, medical care for me and my family, and getting and ID card and a business card,” she said.

The project provided Hayat with vocational training and the opportunity to access a safe and fulfilling career. It also gave her the psychosocial support needed to chart a new course for her future. Among her fellow chefs and the restaurant manager, Hayat is a star employee. She is self-confident and optimistic about the road ahead.

“Because of this project my life has changed, and I am at a happy place now,” Hayat said.

Laila: Overcoming family difficulty to succeed in the classroom

“I feel strong and capable of assuming this positive change for the good of my family…Thanks to Meriem, my case manager, and the Promise Pathways project, our family’s life has changed and our hopes are reborn.”

Laila, student and Promise Pathways beneficiary

Fifteen-year-old Laila did not want to leave school. But with nowhere to sleep and no source of income, she knew she had to help her family. She dropped out of middle school and began to sell small goods on the streets with her mother to support herself and two brothers.

“Life is hard on the streets of Marrakech. Due to widespread violence and a lack of safety, every day I live in fear of being assaulted or abused,” Laila said.

But fortunately for Laila and her brothers, there was hope. With support from the Promise Pathways project, Laila was matched with a case manager named Meriem.

With Meriem’s help, Laila and her brothers got off the streets and found a safe home and support at an organization dedicated to children in difficult situations like hers. Through Promise Pathways, Laila enrolled in remedial courses and counseling that allowed her to get back on track for success and reintegrate into school.

“I am able to go back to school and ensure that I succeed in my studies,” she said.

Promise Pathways also provided Laila with life skills training to help her navigate her challenging family situation and chart her own goals for life.

“I feel strong and capable of assuming this positive change for the good of my family…Thanks to Meriem, my case manager, and the Promise Pathways project, our family’s life has changed and our hopes are reborn,” she said.

Kaoutar: Proving that rural girls can achieve with education

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Kaoutar takes school seriously and is proving to her family and community that girls belong in the classroom.

The school bus doesn’t travel to 16-year-old Kaoutar’s village in the Al Haouz province of Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains. But even if it did, her family did not have the money to send her to middle school. Instead, she stayed home, helping her mother tend to the fields, feed the cows and fetch wood. This was what her father wanted.

“My dad says that school is not for girls, and girls should work at home,” she said.

But that was before Kaoutar was connected to the Promise Pathways project. The team from Promise Pathways met with Kaoutar’s parents and explained to them the importance of educating their daughter to improve her future.

They encouraged them to enroll her in the Aghbalou boarding school in a nearby town, with a scholarship through the project. Though Kaoutar received tutoring to catch up with her classmates, boarding school proved a challenging adjustment and she soon dropped out—but not for long!

“The team of case managers made a special intervention to support me through counseling. This had a very positive impact on me, and I am back to school now and learning!” she said.

Her performance and attendance have significantly improved, which brings her and her mother pride.

“We are proud of the good student I have become, and we appreciate school and the great results it helps girls achieve. I feel now that I am in charge of my future,” she said.

With reporting by Najat Sarhani.

Funding for this project was provided by the United States Department of Labor. This material does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the United States Department of Labor, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the United States Government.

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