Rabat – Two students at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane have won the gender equality prize at AIM2Flourish, a higher-ed curriculum and online platform highlighting social entrepreneurship that aligns with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Imane Abou-said and Zaineb Khizani, both 19, won the prize for research on Serve&Help, a Moroccan startup helping economically-marginalized women find work.
The awards ceremony will be held June 14 to 16 at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, which runs AIM2Flourish.
Abou-said and Khizani discovered the AIM2Flourish platform, which gathers thousands of stories of worldwide social enterprises, through a management class with professor Mary Grace Neville.
“As part of our learning journey, Dr. Neville introduced us to a project that was an opportunity for us, as Moroccan students, to share a non-traditional perspective on our country,” the students told Morocco World News.
The two BA students were assigned to locate a Moroccan social entrepreneurship project and evaluate its ideas and contribution. They decided to write about Serve&Help, a website and app that helps the women day laborers find work., Their award-winning article, “The Journey of Changing Lives,” explored the mission of Serve&Help and its fulfillment of one of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Competing with 422 other contestants across the world, the two students said they started writing their story in September 2016, without even knowing there was a competition.
“Our intentions were for the story to be published,” they said. “After our story passed two peer reviews, it got published. On March 3, we received an email from the AIM2Flourish board that our story was selected to compete over UN prizes each in their respective category.”
Abou-said and Khizani then learned they were one of 17 winners.
Beyond the Story
Abou-said and Khizani said they chose Serve&Help because of its mission to target gender equality issues and obliterate the misperceptions that can harm underprivileged women.
“As Moroccan women, we wanted to contribute in the process of changing the stereotypes that most Moroccans have,” they explained. “First, the innovation we located deals with a marginalized group of women, women who were unfortunate enough to face the cruel misjudgments of our society, either because they were divorced, single mothers or simply coming from poor backgrounds.”
Abou-said and Khizani view themselves as lucky for having had access to higher education and various other opportunities. They stressed the importance of lending a helping hand to others, serving other people, and supporting the role of women in Moroccan society.
“The only reason we have all of this is because we were lucky enough to be born in families who were supportive emotionally and financially,” they continued. “Our motivation was mainly to give back to our society and to shed light on women who are skilled to have a job but couldn’t survive the cruelty of their society that we, as citizens, helped promote by being silent.”
For Every Moroccan Woman
The students have decided to dedicate the prize to Moroccan women, hoping to help society become more cognizant of the difficulties they face. They stressed they do not want to simply benefit from its advantages as individuals. Instead, they will use it to influence more women through Serve&Help.
Believing that international attention will put enough pressure on people to change the situation for these women, the students said they have accomplished their initial goal, which was to give back to the Moroccan community and help to raise awareness of women’s issues and the gender gap.
“This also represents a motivating push for both of us in order to concentrate more on gender equality in Morocco and social entrepreneurship,” they concluded. “We hope that this story will inspire many Moroccan youths and students to seize the opportunity and create their own socially responsible startup.”