Morocco’s Aicha Chenna, a dauntless activist in defense of women

Morocco’s Aicha Chenna, a dauntless activist in defense of women

By Loubna Flah

Morocco World News

Casablanca, April 8, 2013

“Every human being has a candle in their heart. Once you lit the flame it can illuminate the hearts of others” said Aicha Chenna, the lady who broadened the dim prospects of thousands of unwed mothers in Morocco.

Aicha Chenna is a strong-willed woman who set off in a long and stupendous journey of empowerment through sustainable and committed social work.  Labeled as the Moroccan “Mother Teresa”, Aicha Chenna has vowed to defend the cause of single mothers against all odds.

In 2009, Chenna was awarded the world’s largest faith-based prize for entrepreneurship, the Opus Prize, for her life achievement as a social activist. The prize honors her sustained efforts to promote the rights of single mothers to lead a decent life. The Opus Prize is awarded to uncelebratedheroes all over the world who take up the challenge of solving themost persistent social problems. It aims at encouraging outstanding entrepreneurial enterprises that demonstrate an abiding faith to combat intractable global issues like poverty, illiteracy, hunger, disease, and injustice by empowering the less privileged.

Indeed, Moroccan unwed mothers have long been ostracized by society and shunned by their own families. They are often left on their own without support, a source of income, and even without a home.

The association Solidarité Feminine, founded by Aicha Chenna in 1985, opens its doors to unmarried mothers offering them shelter and varied forms of assistance. The hosted mothers have the opportunity to attend literacy classes and workshops where they acquire the practical skills needed to secure a regular and decent income. 

Her staunch defense of unwed mothers’ rights to social recognition earned her the wrath of conservatives. She is often accused of promoting promiscuity through her support of unwed mothers In response to her detractors, Chenna replied wittingly “I have a Muslim heart with a secular mind”.

Aicha Chenna was born in the New Medina of Casablanca and spent her childhood in Marrakech. She returned to Casablanca in 1953 and enrolled in Foch and Joffre High School.  In 1960, Chenna started her training as a state nurse in l’Ecole d’Etat d’Infirmière. In the period between 1962 to 1980, she worked as a social education assistant in the public sector. In 1972, Chenna joined the National Union for Moroccan Women in Casablanca.

Her empathy towards the plight of unwed mothers gave her the impetus to found the association Solidarité Feminine. She has also written a book entitled Miseria, a miscellany of sorrowful stories of domestic maids, abandoned children and unwed mothers.  In 1995, the French Republic awarded her the Human Rights award for her achievements.

The association Solidarité Féminine has received financial support from Moroccan King Mohammed VI. His wife, Princess Salma, attended the opening of the association’s fitness center and SPA in 2004.

The 64-year-old shows an unflinching determination to promote the rights of unwed women to equality and social emancipation. With her angelic smile, her modest attire and her confident look, the humble Aicha Chenna is armed with a strong faith and a dauntless conviction to empower Moroccan women.

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