Aït Ourir, Marrakesh
Located in Morocco's mid-southwest, Marrakesh is Morocco's fourth-largest city, and one of Africa's busiest cities. Historically, the city has been a significant religious and cultural centre as well as a key trading hub. Today, trade remains a mainstay of the local economy, with tourism playing an important role as well.
Our Children's Village is located in Aït Ourir, a town of around 20,000 people, located around 20 miles east of Marrakesh. Located on the banks of the Ourika River, Aït Ourir is an important market town in a predominantly agricultural region. To the west is Morocco's economic heartland; a region traditionally looked on as the gateway to the Western world.
Social division and widespread discrimination
Morocco was originally settled by the Berber people, an ethnic group indigenous to the region of North Africa west of the River Nile. Today, the population is largely Arabic, though pockets of Berbers are still found in the countryside, often living in poverty. A lack of access to education means poverty persists from generation to generation, and many Berber people are moving to cities such as Marrakesh to escape hardship.
Because Berber people usually come to the city with no formal qualifications, urban life is often no easier for them. Parents often lack official documentation such a birth certificates for their children, making it harder for them to claim support. Single mothers in particular struggle to meet their children's needs.
Consequently, prostitution is commonplace in cities like Marrakesh. This is a dangerous trade - women risk not only legal repercussions, but in also face social ostracism in Morocco's Islamic society.
Racial and ethnic discrimination makes it even harder for Berber people to pay their way in the city. Although the Berber language, Amazigh, is one of Morocco's official languages, fluency in Arabic and French is nonetheless viewed more favourably, further damaging Berber people's chances of success in the city.
Children vulnerable to exploitation and violence
Such is the scale of poverty amongst disadvantaged people in the area that children from poor families often end up begging on the street or engaged in child labour. Unaccompanied children are vulnerable to all manner of dangers, from organised crime to drug abuse. Those working as street sellers or domestic servants often fall victim to the commercial industry.
Not only do such circumstances leave children vulnerable to exploitation and violence, they also stop them attending school. With education often the only way out of generational poverty, children from poor families must have access to all the opportunities they need to avoid a future of hardship and poverty.
What is SOS Children doing to help?
SOS Children has worked since 1985 to help Aït Ourir's most vulnerable children escape a lifetime of poverty and enjoy the childhood they deserve. For children unable to grow up with their families, we provide a loving home with an SOS family. Cared for by an SOS Mother, each child is nurtured and supported throughout their childhood, receiving the very best education and healthcare, and benefiting from the opportunities that every child deserves.
Education is a core part of our community work. Along with children from out Children's Village, vulnerable youngsters from around Aït Ourir attend our nursery and primary school. By providing deprived youngsters with quality learning, we aim to ensure every child is equipped to succeed in later life.
In an area where a good education is far beyond the reach of many children, we give young people the life chances they deserve - chances that simply would not exist without SOS Children.