Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I thought it would be a great idea, a good opportunity, to take Bouchra up on her offer. She’s the marketing professor at Al Akhawayn that I’ve been working with for the last 1 ½ years. She did the marketing workshop at the first Marche Maroc in Fes, she’s the one trying to pursue a Fair Trade website to sell Moroccan artisanal products, etc. She’s mentioned a number of times that she’d like to try and get her students out to work with rural artisans and do a project to help them market their products.

Pick me, pick me! We finally put it together for them to come out yesterday, and all 19 of them made the 2 hour trek. (Bouchra did comment that she had no idea what it took for me to come and meet w/her esp. since I use public transport and it takes me 4 hours). Welcome to the world of the countryside.

Despite the fact that the AUI crew didn’t arrive until 4pm, all of the Coop women AND apprentices were there (the apprentices came back and the women usually are gone by 3). Poor Zahra took the brunt of it (Fatima had to go to Sefrou), answering questions directed at her in rapid-fire from all directions. And I forgot that she was fasting all day, so that really exhausted her. I tried to get the students to address their questions to the other members, but this was difficult at best. Several just wanted me to answer their questions. In English.

A bit of background. Al Akhawayn is an all English-speaking, prestigious private University. Annual tuition/housing/etc. runs about 50,000 DH. At least 4x the average countryside annual income. Most of the students speak French in their homes, not Darija. Most had never been to the countryside of Morocco. Getting the picture?

Here I was hoping to get the Coop some great input and expose the students to this wonderful group of women. Most of the students couldn’t be bothered. Most didn’t engage w/the women at all. Some just wanted to weigh in w/their opinions to me-without having spoken with the women. “Why don’t they just sell to shops in Fes?” “It takes them too long to make these products” “They need to sell abroad” “They need to take their products out of the town to sell them.” No shit?! How about sitting down with each of the women one on one and talk with them, ask them questions, get to know their goals, who they are targeting as their customers, what have they done, what are their traditions, what constraints do they need to work within and which can they overcome, etc.? Oh my, I had great expectations, and now realize that this was students just going thru the motions, talking w/one another, not the women who were sitting around the perimeter. Tfoo. Opportunity lost. Live and learn.
Oh, hello Lynn, can we get you off your high horse now??

Got my comeuppance this afternoon when I sat in on the ATPF Association meeting. First item on the agenda was their workshop for the REK Day Tour program. I’ve talked w/Meriem and Amina at length about it, we discussed what they would do, pricing, etc. They attended the meeting we had 2 weeks ago with all of the organizations participating in this program. Safi? Yak?

Well, it appears that the rest of the Association wasn’t up to speed and this meeting was the first time most had heard of this project. 2 ½ hours later the meeting concluded, with only that topic addressed. See, it’s not quite so easy. Where will they do the workshops? Well, the members can take turns hosting them. Gee, one has her kids all afternoon after school so she can only do mornings, another has to check w/her husband to see if it’s ok, another doesn’t have an oven, another has other family obligations, etc. Hmmm, not as easy as it appears. Yes, these women have constraints and oh yeah, we’ve got to work within them. Chewing on my own words. Lesson #593. It’s never as simple as it appears.

On a lighter note, it was good to catch up w/Fatima. The Rabat craft fair was good and very informative-lots of good workshops and she’s heading off tomorrow to another craft fair in Agadir. Good exposure. She ran into Tariq in Rabat and he told her about the Marche Maroc in Marrakech in December and she’s hoping that they can attend. Hamdullah. The mundub is encouraging them to make smaller items, ie; just like the cushion cover I’ve ordered (with the intention of paying for it and leaving it behind as a sample). Finally told them that was my plan and they don’t want me to pay for it, they need it to sell at the craft fair, and will be making a bunch more. Nice.

Goodbyes are in the works. Lunch w/Amy at AUI tomorrow to say goodbye and introduce Jess. Final stop in Fes on Saturday to say my goodbyes to friends there. The ATPF Assoc women want to have a party for me next week. Adwal has a party on the 6th to officially open the showroom and will be bringing in a bunch of folks I’ve not seen in a bit-will be my chance to say goodbye to them all at once. Gulp.

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