Kenza Elazkem

Kenza Elazkem was born and raised in Marrakech, Morocco. She later moved to the United States to finish high school and pursue a degree in Political Science at the University of Texas in San Antonio. During her undergraduate studies, she participated in an exchange program at Hanyang University in Seoul, South Korea. Kenza's interest for development started then. After completing her degree, Kenza joined the Carter Center for an internship in the field of democracy and election observation. She is currently pursuing a dual master's degree in International and Sustainable development between Hankuk University for Foreign Studies in South Korea, and the United Nations University for Peace in Costa Rica. Kenza taught English at a rural primary school in Costa Rica and also joined a women's Capoeira collective. She is eager to learn more about the world and enjoys cooking, traveling and sharing. After the fellowship, she wrote: "The best aspect of the fellowship was to see the process of carpet making and sharing meals with the women's families. Through the fellowship, I have learned the NGO jargon in Arabic. I am also more aware of my surroundings and pay more attention to detail now." Contact: kelazkem@advocacynet.org



Spaces of Ain Leuh

22 Oct

Spaces of Ain Leuh


View of Ain Leuh from Cafe La Cascade (Waterfall Cafe)

Today,  Youssef came in to the cooperative looking for me. Youssef is a young man from Ain Leuh who studies English at the university in Meknes, the closest major city to the village. He had approached me a few weeks earlier at the local coffee shop in Ain Leuh as I was trying to find a reliable internet connection. Youssef spoke to me in English thinking I was a foreigner. When I explained to him that I was Moroccan and an Advocacy Peace Fellow as Silvia was last year, he asked if we could still finish our conversation in English so that he could practice the language. He was eager to learn more about what I was doing and to speak in English.

I had not seen him since then as Ramadan came about and the coffee shop closed during the holy month. As soon as Youssef entered the cooperative, Lhachmia asked him abruptly what he was doing there. He answered he was looking for me but after noticing that there were only women in the cooperative’s atelier. He quickly apologized saying that this was probably not a good time and he left in a hurry. The women asked me if I knew him, and I said that I had met him in the coffeeshop earlier. Jamila jumped to inform the ladies who he was as she knew his older sister. The women started joking about how I had found a potential husband in Ain Leuh and then quickly moved on to talk about how the young generation does not respect any rules anymore. I looked at them a bit wary and said almost justifying myself: “But I only met him once, I don’t know why he’s here.” But my relationship with him did not matter whatsoever to them, what they were talking about is a man entering a women’s space without permission or real purpose.

Space is very gendered in Morocco and even more so in Ain Leuh. The Ain Leuh Cooperative’s premises are not only a space for the members to work in but it is a space where they socialize, where they talk about their problems, sorrows and good news. It is a space where they talk about everything from sex to politics. It is a space they consider theirs, where no man can interfere. As soon as they come in, most of the women take off their veils and some only wear sleeveless tanks, something they would never go out to the street wearing. The only men you can see regularly at the cooperative are Hassan, the association’s treasurer, and Driss, Khadija Aabdi’s husband. Hassan takes care of all the cooperative’s correspondence as he can use a computer and can speak English. Khadija Aabdi and her family live in the cooperative’s premises but Driss’s hours are well known to the women at the cooperative, plus the family’s living quarters are somewhat separate from where the women make their carpets. Both Hassan and Driss knock loudly on doors before coming in. The women occasionally get visitors, such as tour guides bringing in tourists or candidates for elections, but most of them call before they come and the women prepare themselves to have visitors. I have now been here for eight weeks and I can see see distinct patterns of how space is used and gendered, space is sometimes even reserved to different age groups.


A woman running a small restaurant but most of her clientele are men

For example, the main plaza in the village is surrounded by cafes that are mainly reserved for men. I happened to sit in one of those one to realized few minutes later that I probably was not supposed to as I was the only woman-costumer and was surrounded by men. The women at the cooperative even complained about how many cafes there were and how it has almost become impossible to walk through the plaza because they didn’t want to see and be seen by so many men. The cafe that is open to both men and women sits on top of the village and its terrasse is a view point on the small waterfall of Ain Leuh. But even this cafe and especially its terrasse is only frequented by teenagers and youngsters in their twenties. They usually come to meet each other or take advantage of the wireless internet network, well when there is internet in Ain Leuh…

The internet connexion might be one of the biggest issue facing the women at the cooperative. There are weeks when the whole village cannot access the internet. And when the internet is available, the women are reluctant to go into the cyber cafe, reserved for male teenagers mostly, or to cafes where young girls connect using smartphones, tablets or laptops. Two of the women have smartphones but 3G has not yet reached the village which means that uploading pictures online of their products is quasi-impossible. I am able to do this for the women during my weekly trips to the city but I wonder how long it will take for tele-communication companies to bring in reliable internet connexion to rural areas. I will not be here that much longer but let’s go back to our conversation about space.

There are different parks in Ain Leuh equipped with benches and even fountains. Even these are separate spaces, separate between men, women, elderly, youth, couples and even musicians. It only takes a walk through town to realize which park is reserved for men. It has a bright light under which the men play chess and petanque. There is a park where most women hang out while kids play together. The elderly usually hang out in this park too. If you walk a little further, where the trees prevent the light from reaching the sidewalk, you will notice some couples chatting in the evening. As dating is somewhat taboo, it is better to do it discretely far from where all the village dwellers hang out. And even further from there, in the soccer field of Ain Leuh, a group of young men hang out in the evening to play and practice their music.

Private space is also separated. Khdouj Ouchkak invited me to her brother’s house when his son had a baby. She wanted to show me the traditions of the region. In Ain Leuh, when a women has a baby, her family, friends and neighbors come to congratulate her. Did I mention that it is only female relatives, friends and neighbors who come? There were no adult men in the house. In fact, Khdouj’s nephew, who just had the baby, was sitting outside of the house talking to other men until everyone left.

I am not sure where I want to go with all of this or how I want to analyze these patterns. It seems that women tend to stay in closed spaces more than open ones. But as an outsider to the village, I had to notice the patterns and adapt to the segregation even though no one had ever asked me why or not I am here or there but the locals know where to go and where not to.

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Spaces of Ain Leuh<\/strong><\/p>\n\n\n

\n

\n\t

\n\t\t

\"\"
\nView of Ain Leuh from Cafe La Cascade (Waterfall Cafe)<\/span><\/span><\/b><\/td>\n\t<\/tr>\n<\/tbody>\n<\/table>\n\n

Today,  Youssef came in to the cooperative looking for me. Youssef is a young man from Ain Leuh who studies English at the university in Meknes, the closest major city to the village. He had approached me a few weeks earlier at the local coffee shop in Ain Leuh as I was trying to find a reliable internet connection. Youssef spoke to me in English thinking I was a foreigner. When I explained to him that I was Moroccan and an Advocacy Peace Fellow as Silvia was last year, he asked if we could still finish our conversation in English so that he could practice the language. He was eager to learn more about what I was doing and to speak in English.<\/p>\n\n

I had not seen him since then as Ramadan came about and the coffee shop closed during the holy month. As soon as Youssef entered the cooperative, Lhachmia asked him abruptly what he was doing there. He answered he was looking for me but after noticing that there were only women in the cooperative\u2019s atelier. He quickly apologized saying that this was probably not a good time and he left in a hurry. The women asked me if I knew him, and I said that I had met him in the coffeeshop earlier. Jamila jumped to inform the ladies who he was as she knew his older sister. The women started joking about how I had found a potential husband in Ain Leuh and then quickly moved on to talk about how the young generation does not respect any rules anymore. I looked at them a bit wary and said almost justifying myself: \u201cBut I only met him once, I don\u2019t know why he\u2019s here.\u201d But my relationship with him did not matter whatsoever to them, what they were talking about is a man entering a women\u2019s space without permission or real purpose.<\/p>\n\n

Space is very gendered in Morocco and even more so in Ain Leuh. The Ain Leuh Cooperative\u2019s premises are not only a space for the members to work in but it is a space where they socialize, where they talk about their problems, sorrows and good news. It is a space where they talk about everything from sex to politics. It is a space they consider theirs, where no man can interfere. As soon as they come in, most of the women take off their veils and some only wear sleeveless tanks, something they would never go out to the street wearing. The only men you can see regularly at the cooperative are Hassan, the association\u2019s treasurer, and Driss, Khadija Aabdi\u2019s husband. Hassan takes care of all the cooperative\u2019s correspondence as he can use a computer and can speak English. Khadija Aabdi and her family live in the cooperative\u2019s premises but Driss\u2019s hours are well known to the women at the cooperative, plus the family\u2019s living quarters are somewhat separate from where the women make their carpets. Both Hassan and Driss knock loudly on doors before coming in. The women occasionally get visitors, such as tour guides bringing in tourists or candidates for elections, but most of them call before they come and the women prepare themselves to have visitors. I have now been here for eight weeks and I can see see distinct patterns of how space is used and gendered, space is sometimes even reserved to different age groups.<\/p>\n\n\n

\n

\n\t

\n\t\t

\"\"
\nA woman running a small restaurant but most of her clientele are men<\/span><\/span><\/b><\/td>\n\t<\/tr>\n<\/tbody>\n<\/table>\n\n

For example, the main plaza in the village is surrounded by cafes that are mainly reserved for men. I happened to sit in one of those one to realized few minutes later that I probably was not supposed to as I was the only woman-costumer and was surrounded by men. The women at the cooperative even complained about how many cafes there were and how it has almost become impossible to walk through the plaza because they didn\u2019t want to see and be seen by so many men. The cafe that is open to both men and women sits on top of the village and its terrasse is a view point on the small waterfall of Ain Leuh. But even this cafe and especially its terrasse is only frequented by teenagers and youngsters in their twenties. They usually come to meet each other or take advantage of the wireless internet network, well when there is internet in Ain Leuh\u2026<\/p>\n\n

The internet connexion might be one of the biggest issue facing the women at the cooperative. There are weeks when the whole village cannot access the internet. And when the internet is available, the women are reluctant to go into the cyber cafe, reserved for male teenagers mostly, or to cafes where young girls connect using smartphones, tablets or laptops. Two of the women have smartphones but 3G has not yet reached the village which means that uploading pictures online of their products is quasi-impossible. I am able to do this for the women during my weekly trips to the city but I wonder how long it will take for tele-communication companies to bring in reliable internet connexion to rural areas. I will not be here that much longer but let\u2019s go back to our conversation about space.<\/p>\n\n

There are different parks in Ain Leuh equipped with benches and even fountains. Even these are separate spaces, separate between men, women, elderly, youth, couples and even musicians. It only takes a walk through town to realize which park is reserved for men. It has a bright light under which the men play chess and petanque. There is a park where most women hang out while kids play together. The elderly usually hang out in this park too. If you walk a little further, where the trees prevent the light from reaching the sidewalk, you will notice some couples chatting in the evening. As dating is somewhat taboo, it is better to do it discretely far from where all the village dwellers hang out. And even further from there, in the soccer field of Ain Leuh, a group of young men hang out in the evening to play and practice their music.<\/p>\n\n

Private space is also separated. Khdouj Ouchkak invited me to her brother\u2019s house when his son had a baby. She wanted to show me the traditions of the region. In Ain Leuh, when a women has a baby, her family, friends and neighbors come to congratulate her. Did I mention that it is only female relatives, friends and neighbors who come? There were no adult men in the house. In fact, Khdouj\u2019s nephew, who just had the baby, was sitting outside of the house talking to other men until everyone left.<\/p>\n\n

I am not sure where I want to go with all of this or how I want to analyze these patterns. It seems that women tend to stay in closed spaces more than open ones. But as an outsider to the village, I had to notice the patterns and adapt to the segregation even though no one had ever asked me why or not I am here or there but the locals know where to go and where not to.<\/p>“,”class”:””}]}[/content-builder]

Posted By Kenza Elazkem

Posted Oct 22nd, 2015

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