Morocco, the empowerment of Berber women starts from a rose

A project aimed to rediscover the importance of roses in Morocco created an opportunity for development and women’s empowerment, and repopulated a valley that would otherwise be abandoned.

In the valley of the Dadès River, Morocco, centifolia roses have always been very important for the population, but over the course of the years the price of fresh flowers has dropped and sales have increasingly gone down. So, these plants were disappearing when Naïma Fdil, who was born in a small village in this valley of roses, had an intuition.

The project

When she had been studying in Marrakesh, Fdil found out that the roses of her valley, thanks to the semi-arid climate of the region and the nutrient-rich soil, have unique properties that make them suitable for the production of cosmetics. In 2005 Fdil founded the Women’s Association for Family Development in Wadi Dadès aiming to provide women in the villages with the resources that meet their and their children’s needs.

valley of roses morocco women empowerment
Berber women’s Valley of Roses © Yves Rocher Fondation

The association taught these women how to distill roses in order to obtain more precious products that can be sold at higher prices, and opened a distillery where bio cosmetics are made. To make the project sustainable she also planted new roses in nurseries as well as open fields and taught women how to take care of them. This also helped preserve the biodiversity of the region and strengthen the slopes of the valley, avoiding landslides when it rains.

Serious attention has been paid in the growth project that allowed women to learn the bases of mathematics and Arabic – they only spoke the local dialect; a nursery school has also been opened where children can learn French and Arabic before going to primary school and a school bus has been purchased to take elder students to school.

The turning point for the Dadès Valley

The association offered these women awareness and a new vision to the present and future, and made them stronger and freer. “I’m very proud because the women of my village and other surrounding villages understood that the Earth is the solution to their financial and social problems. I could have been one of them and live the life of a country woman: without voice, without rights and without resources”, Fdil said. This development programme expanded the economy of the valley and provided local women with an opportunity to eradicate poverty and illiteracy.

In 2013 the Yves Rocher Foundation recognised the merit of this project and awarded the Terre de femmes Prize to Naïma Fdil because she knew how to combine environmental protection, local economic development and women’s empowerment. Now she’s satisfied: “When a woman dreams something she just needs to take the first step. And she will go through it”.

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