GIRLS IN THE GARAGE
Upending expectations in northern Morocco
Story by Sahar Kalifa, USAID and Kelly Ramundo, USAID | Photos by Bobby Neptune for USAID
Meet the Mechanic
Najlae Lachqar has an infectious smile, whether or not she is covered in grease.
The 23-year-old aspiring auto-mechanic lives in the Tanjawa neighborhood of Tetouan, in Morocco’s conservative north, with her mother, father and six of her 11 siblings.
A Shared Passion
She shares the passion with her little sister Rajae, who is just a year younger.
“We are very close,” says Rajae. “And we do almost everything together.”
Studying for success
The two-year program consists of classroom study and an internship. Students learn mechanical theory that they then apply to practical training during the week.
Mechanics isn’t quite considered “women’s work” in northern Morocco.
Najlae and Rajae are the only women in their program, but they refuse to back down.
Roadblocks to prosperity
Najlae and Rajae often experience judgement from their friends and neighbors for choosing to work in a male-dominated field.
They also share common concerns about the lack of job security and financial difficulties.
Says Najlae: “When you go to the companies to look for a job, they tell you: ‘I’ll call you later.’ But they don’t.’”
Najlae and Rajae have dreams of opening their own workshop one day and calling it “Princess Auto.” They would like it to have an inviting, feminine design and offer services that cater to women drivers.
The sisters’ goal is to make women feel comfortable taking their cars to a shop without having to ask for help from a male relative. They also want to teach women simple fixes, like changing a tire.
“I can’t describe my happiness,” says Najlae. “I’ve achieved something that I thought was impossible.”
About This Story
There are nearly 10 million young people in Morocco, and youth make up nearly 80% of the unemployed population. Therefore, it is no surprise that Morocco’s unemployment crisis has hit youth the hardest. The fruitless job market has led to migration, increased crime and social marginalization.
In 2012, USAID helped launch the Favorable Opportunities to Reinforce Self-Advancement for Today’s Youth, or FORSATY program, implemented by the International Organization for Migration. This program works to reach disaffected youth (ages 12 to 25) living in deprived neighborhoods in the north of Morocco, who are at risk of socioeconomic marginalization.
By improving opportunities for these youth through a combination of education, employment and community involvement, FORSATY aims to help young people become more productive citizens.
As of February 2016, the program has reached over 10,000 young people living in the north of Morocco with new opportunities. USAID’s support with internship and education programs helps young people like Najlae and Rajae get involved in their communities, boost their confidence and find and secure employment that they can thrive in.