Mahjouba Edbouche founded Ahddane in 2012. During many years, she has seen the social problems in the urban district Dcheira el Jihadia outside Agadir. The area is crowded, and many women and children live under poor conditions. Mahjouba wants to change these conditions, to give women and children a chance they otherwise never would have gotten.
Mahjoubas social engagement started many years earlier than this and with her courage and hard work for women’s and children’s rights, she has been able to help thousands of women and children in and around Agadir.
Mahjoubas own life has been long and often difficult. She was born in Agadir in 1951. She was married when she was 16 and then got responsible for her husband’s three children from his earlier marriage. When she was pregnant with her third own child, she and her husband was in a car accident and he died. 24 years old, a widow and responsible for six children, she learned how Moroccan society treats single mothers and their babies.
In 1977, Mahjouba tried to candidate in the local elections to draw focus on women’s rights. When this didn’t succeed, she focused on education. She got a diploma as a secretary and she was the first women in southern Morocco (the second in the whole country) to get a bus driver’s license, everything to increase her possibilities to get a work and to be able to support her children.
Through her hard work, Mahjouba managed to create a good life for herself and her children. In the late 80s she got a job at the Swiss humanitarian organization Terre des Hommes, which then were working in Agadir. Their work with children in distress affected her a lot. An idea started to grow – what if they also would try to create better conditions for the mothers of the children? A lot of children in Morocco are abandoned and end up in the streets. Mahjouba realized that this is a consequence of the living conditions for women in Morocco and society must break the taboos that surround these issues.
And in 2001, with the support of Terre des Hommes, Mahjouba was able to create her own organization, Oum El Banine, which helps both children and their mothers. The target group is pregnant, unmarried mothers. To become a mother before marriage is illegal in Morocco and it is a social taboo and a social stigma. These women are among the most excluded in Moroccan society. Without the support of organizations like Oum El Banine, the women would end up in the streets, if they even would have survived the pregnancy.
Mahjoubas strong belief is that women should not be left alone with their problems and she has dedicated her life to improve women’s living conditions in Morocco. This is achieved both through direct support for women in distress, but also with a more long-term goal, with information to women about their legal rights to create awareness, and also by participating in the debate aiming at creating changes to improve women’s legal status.
In 2011, when Mahjouba turned 60, the plan was to retire. Instead, she started planning for something new, a new organization in Dcheira. And in 2012, Ahddane was born. Mahjouba is retired today, but she is still working full-time, or more, and is in charge of both Oum El Banine and Ahddane.
Mahjouba Edbouche is today a well-known name in the Moroccan women’s rights movement. Provocative according to some people, a role model and humanist with a big heart according to many others.