Interview with Fawzia Baba-Aïssa, head of development in the Mediterranean Women’s Fund
The MedWF works with members of women’s associations to further develop regional networks supporting women. The MedWF pursues its work through participatory approaches including theatre and community mobilisation. Fondation CHANEL has been supporting the project since 2013.
What Does the Mediterranean Women’s Fund Do?
The Mediterranean Women’s Fund was created in 2008 to initially provide financial assistance to women’s associations working to promote equality on the ground in North Africa and France.
However, while we considered this financial support essential, it quickly became clear that it was not sufficient to transform the women’s movement into a real driving force of a change in mentality. The lack of self-esteem among the leaders, the absence of recruits to continue the movement and the differing opinions of the associations all hinder the efficacy and scope of their activities.
How did the “Feminist Collective Intelligence Training” project, supported by Fondation CHANEL, come about?
Many young female leaders who could take over the reins suffer from low self-esteem, are isolated and have difficulties making their mark in the public arena or working in a network. Spontaneity and passion are not sufficient. In order to sustainably support a collective action, understanding, exchanges and collaboration are vital.
In 2013, we therefore decided to set up a feminist collective intelligence training programme to nurture young female leaders to become stronger together.
The experiment was launched in 4 Mediterranean countries (Algeria, France, Morocco and Tunisia) and lasted for 3 years. A total of 150 young women were trained, 80 of whom met in Marrakesh in July 2016 to round off the adventure and build a regional network.
What results did you observe?
Numerous participants, who were very shy and insecure at the start, became much more confident. Several of them set up innovative awareness-raising activities.
I could share a number of examples which show how the training programme allowed things to fall into place and provided the tools for collective creation. One example in particular comes to mind regarding young Moroccan women from isolated villages.
These illiterate women created an association in their village and led a campaign on a theme they were committed to: the under-education of young girls in their village. They organised a forum theatre play to inform the local population and public authorities of the importance of keeping girls in school. It was inspiring to see how they put the training into practice and applied it to their everyday lives.
What were your relations with Fondation CHANEL?
Due to their backing over 3 years, the MedWF team felt completely supported, not just financially but also on a moral and technical level. Fondation CHANEL was present at each stage of the experience and took part in all of the training programmes. It was essential to benefit from external expertise for the development of this pilot project. The partner seminars organised by Fondation CHANEL also proved extremely useful and inspiring, by facilitating contact with other players on the ground working for the same cause. More than a simple sponsor, Fondation CHANEL was a real coach!