“A Muslim heart with a secular mind.”
“Men’s courage has disappeared in our society.”
Aïcha Chenna is a Moroccan social worker and women’s rights advocate and activist, born in 1941 during the protectorate era in Casablanca. A registered nurse, she began working with disadvantaged women as an employee of the country’s Ministry of Health. She was the founder, in 1985, of the Association Solidarité Féminine (ASF), a Casablanca-based charity that assists single mothers and victims of abuse. Chenna has received various humanitarian awards for her work.
In 1985, she founded the Association Solidarité Féminine (ASF), an organization dedicated to helping single mothers and abused women. It was initially run out of a basement in Casablanca. Chenna, in founding the Association Solidarité Féminine, described the need for “a social uprising to bring back the citizenship and humanitarian spirit” within Moroccan society. The ASF trains women in cooking, sewing, accounting, and various other skills, with the aim of reintegrating them (and their children) into society and giving them independence.
In 1996, Chenna published “Miséria: témoignage” (“Misery: Testimonies”), in which she narrated twenty stories of women she had worked with. The book has been described both as a “feminist proclamation” and a “miscellany of sorrowful stories”. It won a prize from the French embassy in Rabat and was later translated into Arabic.
Chenna self-describes as having “a Muslim heart with a secular mind”, the quick-witted summation of her own personal credo. During her time as an employee of the Ministry of Health, she became known for her work in areas subject to social and religious taboos, including family planning, the status of single mothers, the status of illegitimate children and abandoned children’s, and the status of incest victims. She received regular criticism from social conservatives, who claimed that her work legitimized immoral behavior.
In 2009, Chenna was awarded the Opus Prize for her work with disadvantaged women. She was the first Muslim to win the award and she devolved the prize money to ensuring her foundation continued after her death.
Chenna 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.
Written by WAVE intern Diva Adelaide Edosini