JAMILA, BORN AGAINST ALL ODDS: SHELTERING POOR URBAN MOTHERS IN MOROCCO
Fatima is one of thousands of women who have come to Tangiers, the northern Moroccan port city, in hopes of a better future. The city has seen a period of unprecedented economic growth in the last years. But with the population growing exponentially, widening urban disparities are becoming increasingly the norm. Women like Fatima face growing neglect and isolation in an environment of high population density, poverty and unemployment. Fatima had an additional challenge: she was expecting a baby.
Fatima was fortunate to find her way to 100% Oumahat, Mothers at Risk’s local partner. It is the only shelter of its kind in the north of Morocco, devoted to supporting unwed expectant mothers. It offers emergency accommodation as well as a comprehensive support program to encourage a healthy pregnancy, a safe delivery, a positive mother-child relationship and the mothers’ self-sufficiency.
Most of the women at 100% Oumahat, like Fatima, do not have a formal education and have come to the city looking for work, only to end up living in dire poverty. Fatima, 23, left her village in northwestern Morocco, Tiflit, to look for work in Tangiers, 300 Km away from home. She found a low-paying job at a factory in Tangiers, but when she discovered she was expecting, she lost her job. With abortion illegal, and pregnancy out of wedlock stigmatized, Fatima was out of options. She kept her pregnancy a secret from her family and had no support networks to rely on.
By the time she was eight and-a-half months pregnant, she was alone, jobless, with no prospects of income, and with no place to live. Fatima feared delivering alone at the hospital where it was likely that staff would notify the police of her status, and she saw no alternative to abandoning her baby after birth. Fortunately, she was referred to 100% Oumahat just in time.
Fatima spent the days before her delivery caring for the other mothers’ babies and participating in the family-like environment of the shelter. And when she delivered and held her healthy baby girl Jamila for the first time, she decided beyond any doubt to keep her and to raise her by herself despite all the odds.
As soon as Fatima had recovered from her delivery, she started participating in a professional training program, sponsored by Mothers at Risk with the goal of securing a job to sustain herself and Jamila. The certificate Fatima graduated with opens up employment opportunities for her. She has already secured a full-time job and earns enough to support the two of them. She has moved with little Jamila into their own rented apartment, the home for their small family from now on.