Aicha Chenna, an activist fighting for single mothers in Morocco
By Fatima Zohra Bouaziz
Rabat, Mar 8 (EFE).- Nicknamed “the Moroccan Mother Theresa,” Aicha Chenna has dedicated her life to defending single mothers’ rights in a society that shuns them. “I will fight until my last breath,” the 81-year-old tells Efe.
For 60 years, Chenna has been fighting for this fragile social category in Morocco, where extramarital affairs are criminalized.
Chenna began her battle when she was just 17 years old as a social worker.
Then she went on to speak up for the vulnerable, pushing the North African country to launch a family planning service in the 1970s.
Despite a nerve damage condition, Chenna continues to work day by day at her home in the port city of Casablanca to help single mothers and abandoned children.
She says during an interview with Efe that she draws her strength from these women, whom she describes as “courageous mothers” because they have to stand up for society, as well as the family that disowned them.
Chenna explains that society’s perception of these women has improved after Morocco’s king Mohamed VI has made reforms on women’s rights.
However, she believes that it is “a small change,” regretting that parents still find it difficult to accept a daughter who, according to society, was “sullied.”
Chenna’s priority is to get children to stay with their mothers in order to “always have an identity,” which is why she founded the Women’s Solidarity Association (ASF) in 1985 after witnessing a scene that left a mark on her.
“A young woman was breastfeeding her baby when a social worker gave her child abandonment documents to sign,” she remembers. “Then someone else came to take the baby away. The mother yanked it from her breast and the milk fell on the face of the baby, who burst into tears. I have that cry etched in my head forever.”
ASF has three centers in Casablanca and a 19-member team that provide assistance to around 20 women. They are young people who either fled or were expelled by their families when they became pregnant in a country where abortion is illegal.
According to ASF, many had relationships with men who promised them marriage but then disappeared.
The NGO takes care of the mother as soon as she gives birth, gives her a monthly payment and offers her a three-year vocational training program to learn trades such as hairdressing.
“This year, while I was waiting at the ophthalmologist’s clinic, a woman approached me and told me that thanks to the association her cousin, a single mother, managed to get ahead and resume her studies. She just passed high school with her son, you can imagine that joy!” Chenna says.
For this dauntless fighter, the battle continues. The key, she says, is in the new generations, the awareness among young people and the generalization of sexual education in schools.
“I live between the hospital and my home, but I will continue to fight until the last day, until my last breath. I want a better future for all the children of Morocco,” Chenna stresses. EFE