Nassira Boudhan a passionate and inspirational Moroccan entrepreneur who sought a solution to one of the most critical problems affecting her homeland; girls and women not having the opportunity for education. She came up with a genuine and effective solution with her project “Fashion for education” that imposes a condition on the textile corporations to allocate a small budget from their profits towards educating women that work in manufacturing their products. She also founded “A-Lief” that sells clothing and household accessories hand made by Moroccan women, her project creates work opportunities and supports educational initiatives. Nassira met with Arab Woman Mag and told us how it all started,
“Most girls in my village and family where not expected to go to school and get an education, the norm at that time was to attend to household chores. But even at the early age of six; being a little rebel discreetly I followed our neighbor’s children to school which is a 7 KM walk in the woods. I fell in love with school and the idea of learning and conveyed that to the school’s principle. He told me I could attend as long as I get the school book that is in my grandfather’s possession. When I returned home that day I got a beating from my mother telling me never to do that again. But being me, I didn’t listen and stole the school book from my grandfather’s closet and gave it to the principle the next day, to be officially enrolled as a student. My grandmother was furious and told me that my grandfather would surely kill me if he ever found out, and when my mother realized how determined I was to attend school she told me to keep it a secret from my grandfather. Until one day he overheard me reading and asked me where I learned to read, I simply answered school. To my astonishment the only thing he said to me was, “O.K. as long as you have company with you.” He was simply worried for my safety.
Here I realized that women are the ones who put obstacles for themselves, we are the ones who give men the power to control us, and that many opportunities are missed by girls because we are overly protective of them, to the extent where it back fires. We hardly ask girls about their dreams, but almost always ask boys about theirs.
At the age of eight I moved to Holland with my parents and continued my education there till I graduated from university and went into a career in banking. Yet I always thought of my homeland and those women being deprived opportunity, I knew I wanted to go back and make difference to what means the most to my heart. With my many contacts I was able to start, and A-Lief was born. A-Lief believes that development of women and girls can be stimulated through education and work. Young girls need to have access to education and women should be able to work to pay for their own further education and/or of their children. When you educate a girl you educate a nation. It is simply offering opportunity in the right place and giving some talented women and designers a chance to be recognized for their efforts. I also give privilege especially to those women that were victims of rape or abuse as society’s accusing finger blames the girl even though she’s the victim. A-Lief’s products are environmentally durable brand in which the 3 R’s (Reduce, Recycle, Re-Use) are being used.
The response to fashion for education was great, as there isn’t a girl or woman who doesn’t want to get educated; there is a thirst for advancement and independence.
I have to admit that behind every successful woman is a proud man, and if it wasn’t for the support of many men believing in my vision, my project and in me I might have fell short. Unfortunately women are each other’s worst enemies, we have to change that mind set and help one another succeed. But personally my biggest support and proud man behind me is my father who finally gave me that awaited tap on the back for a job well done.
My advice is the best gift you can give your daughter is education and knowledge, women are half of society and they raise the other half, and the only way for development in societies is by educating women.”
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