Summer Centered: Zuyi Wang ’20 and Anran Li ’20 Empower Women in Morocco
Interns for the Sefrou-based Cherry Buttons Cooperative and Golden Buttons Women’s Empowerment Center, Wang and Li are teaching English and computational skills to local women this summer.
Comparative literature major Anran Li ’20 and economics major Zuyi Wang ’20 have always made sure to incorporate their interest in issues of gender equality into their extracurricular pursuits. Wang’s work history, for example, includes a stint at GeenieBox, “a Brooklyn startup focused on black women’s empowerment,” while Li has been a loyal staffer for the Women*s Center on campus ever since the second semester of her college career.
Being part of a group of folks who are dedicated to empathy and social justice has been a highlight of my time at Haverford,” says Li of her work in the Women*s Center.
This summer, the rising juniors are continuing to make female empowerment a priority—but much further from the College. Sponsored by the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship, they’re interning with the Cherry Buttons Cooperative and Golden Buttons Women’s Empowerment Center in Sefrou, Morocco, teaching English-language and computational skills to local women, “the youngest fifteen and the oldest in her fifties.”
For both, the location of the opportunity was a big draw.
“Part of what [attracted] me to this internship was that I have never been to the MENA [Middle East-North Africa] region,” Li says. “I am really excited to be in Morocco and to investigate into its culture, religion, and language. Basically, there's a lot to the country that I hope to learn and experience.”
Likewise, Wang cites the “cultural immersion aspect” of the internship—which she characterizes as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”—as the predominant reason she applied for it.
“I felt ignorant in my understanding of Islamic culture, so this internship is a way for me to broaden my horizons by interacting with a society that is especially different from my own and plagued with bias in American mass media,” she says.
The product of a micro-credit loan, the Cherry Buttons Cooperative has been enabling women to win economic independence through the manufacture and sale of traditional djellaba buttons and jewelry since the late ’90s. Sister institution the Golden Buttons Women’s Empowerment Center, on the other hand, hosts skills classes—two of which Li and Wang are teaching this summer—for local women. And Li and Wang have made sure that their curriculum isn’t all work and no play.
“Our classes are fun,” Wang says, “and the women come to [get to know] each other as well as learn.”
For the Ford interns, a typical day begins with a 25-minute walk from their host family’s house to the Women’s Empowerment Center. Though their surroundings there are sparse—the classroom where they teach English, Wang says, “consists mainly of chairs, one table, and one whiteboard,” and the few computers present are “old, with Microsoft Office applications that are out-of-date”—it’s a small price to pay for the chance to teach and learn from the local women.
“Providing the women with an environment where they can practice speaking is very crucial to their English learning,” Wang says. “Anyone can memorize vocabulary words from a textbook, but listening to yourself and English-speaking people speak out loud can further accelerate learning. I've seen visible advances in comprehension and pronunciation/reading.”
“The biggest challenge we have [when it comes to teaching] is that the women have different levels of proficiency,” says Wang. “Thus, we have to find ways to create inclusive lessons that can be applicable for all. In computer classes, we are still able to go over the basic functions, as well as push the women to practice typing in order to get more familiar with the keyboard.”
In many cases, however, Li and Wang find the obstacles they face, whether inside or outside the classroom, empowering rather than frustrating.
“The fact that I have to find a way to thrive and work in a culture that is so different from my own is both a physical and emotional challenge,” Wang says, “and this internship has showed me that I am capable of entering communities and finding creative ways to achieve my goals.”
“Summer Centered” is a series exploring our students’ Center-funded summer work.