The big thing that is going on is trying to organize the midwife training. The training isn’t until October, but we have to get names and other information to the Ministry very soon. As I’ve mentioned before, the other volunteers participating in the training have already been in their communities for over a year and have been working on the training for much longer than me. So they’ve had all their trainees set up for a while now. I, on the other hand, am very disorganized. Basically, I’m scrambling around talking to the few connections I have and trying to figure out potential trainees.
Given the difficulty of the project, I’m probably in over my head. First of all, the language for describing the training and whom I want to go to the training is very difficult. My region has a different word for midwife (tamisgant) than most places, which I JUST learned. I had been walking around saying this word (tamqablt) that no one understood. Which complicated my discussions with people because I had to explain what a tamqablt was. The next problem is that there aren’t really formal tamisgants or tamqablts or whatever you want to call them. In my douar, there are several women who help with complicated births, but they aren’t midwifes and don’t think of themselves as such. So you can’t just ask any person on the street, "who are the tamisgants" in this village and get an answer. You’ve got to ask a bunch of different people and figure out whom the right people are to talk to and then ask them. And finally, another big obstacle is being a man. Women know better about who the midwifes are, but I can’t talk to them about it; the topic is sort of shameful. So I kind of slink around waiting for good opportunities to talk to people.
Luckily, my host mom has been very helpful. I can talk to her about most anything. She and a female volunteer (Mara) who organized the project went around with me in my douar today and we talked to several women about the training. The women were very open and excited about the project and didn’t seem to mind talking about it with me, which I think is very encouraging for future work with women. The men are a little harder convince (the women need the men’s permission), but I think that they mostly were supportive.
In my neighboring douar, I didn’t have the help of my host mom and it made things much harder. I talked to the sheikh (kind of like the mayor) there and he agreed to help. I thought that he would guide us to the right houses and we would talk to the women. Instead he went to the middle of town and said something to another man, who I guess is like the town crier. The man shouted at the top of his voice for all the men and women to assemble (separately) to talk to me and my colleague. As the women went with Mara, I was left to talk to the men. I stood on a sort of stage and had to explain the birthing training to about 150 men in my so-so Tamazight. It was not a situation that I would have agreed to beforehand, but once things were set in motion there was no backing out of it. It ended up going pretty well, thanks in large part to the support of several of my friends in the douar, who would step in and explain something if I said it funny.
The project is interesting because it absolutely requires collaboration between men and women volunteers. It’s pretty obvious how a woman volunteer can help me to talk to women about a taboo topic. Without Mara, I could not have gotten an audience about the training. But, as a man, it’s easier for me to set up meetings with the powerful men in different douars and talk to them about it. It’s critical that the community as a whole participate in the project, so men need to buy into it. One obvious reason is that the women need the permission of the men in order to leave the community to do the training. Having a male volunteer at the meetings gives the project a little more credibility in the eyes of other men and makes them more likely to give their wives permission.
So it’s an exciting time. Since I’ve been in Morocco, there’s never been an occasion where I’ve worried that I won’t have enough time to get something done, until now. I’m hoping that we can make this training an annual thing; there are many communities that we were unable to communicate with and more time is needed.
Everything else is going well. I’m 100% better from my illness, humdullilah. I’ll be going to Khenifra (provincial capital) Tuesday to talk to the Ministry about the midwife training. Hopefully, it’ll all work out well. I also had my best adventure yet as, while biking/hiking to a nearby volunteers house I found an amazing canyon. Unfortunately I didnt have my camera, but I will return to that place and take pics as soon as Im able.