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My name is Cortney Healy. In September of 2008 I left my home in Massachusetts for a two year journey into the rural Middle Atlas Mountains of Morocco to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer working with Small Business Development.

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During my first few months, I tried to assist a group of local Amazight women in generating revenue through their artisan activities. Going through this experience with them, I started to witness some of the cultural barriers that many rural Moroccan women face when attempting to pursue this life choice. With my position on the Peace Corps Gender and Development committee, I worked to educate myself on some of the cultural and gender barriers these women faced and see what I could do that would have a far reaching and lasting impact.

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Spending time with the Moroccan women and girls I started to see how and where they spent their time and got their information. In the rural areas, most women spent the majority of their lifetime at home. They rarely ventured out of their immediate communities. Most of the information they received about the outside world came from the males in their communities who were more likely to travel. I also noticed that almost all had access to television, thanks to the availability of satellite dishes for their home.

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The television shows that I would watch with my Moroccan female friends were mostly Turkish soap operas and girls’ love stories. We would gather to see these shows and would get lost in the lives of the characters for an hour at a time. It was during this first year that I realized how powerful and important media is in a developing country in helping to relay messages and share ideas.

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I tried to search out media examples of actual stories of Moroccan women shown in a positive light. A few women were highlighted on the news but I was searching for something more concrete. I wanted examples that could be used by Peace Corps and other organizations to not only encourage women to pursue their dreams and engage in their communities, but also help relieve some of their economic burdens. Not finding what I was looking for, I decided to create it myself. This is how the film “ You Can Dream; Stories of Moroccan Women Who Do ” was born.

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To get the show on the road I sought out Moroccan counterparts who showed interest and were able to help me pursue this project. At an event I attended at the American Embassy I met a gentleman named Lotfi with a background in development work who agreed to help.

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In addition to me and Lotfi , our team consisted of three other members. First was Kawtar , a well educated and inspired woman who herself was breaking stereotypes in her own life. She was recruited as our lead interviewer. Second was Najat , a well known TV sit com actress, who served as a liaison for the project and one of our camera technicians. Our final team member was a talented documentary student from Romania named Cristiana who was in Morocco as a Fulbright scholar from Harvard and took on the role of our lead camera technician.

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With the team in place, I began searching for funds to help support this project and was able to do so with generous support of family and friends through the Peace Corps Partnership Fund .

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Lotfi and I mapped out our travels and were soon on the road. Along the journey we met many fabulous and generous Moroccans who helped guide us and show us the way. The month long road trip allowed us to cover a lot of ground and reach out to communities that were far off the beaten path. The women we chose to interview came from recommendations made to us by Peace Corps Volunteers as well as from local community members. We must have interviewed between 30-40 women and girls as well as a few men. Each had their own wonderful story.

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I began editing the film early on in the process. To accompany the film, I put together a general film discussion guide and began working with the Peace Corps Gender and Development Committee to make sure the finished product would be something that could be used for many years to come.

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During my final days as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I tried to give the committee all of my ideas and visions for this project and let them run with it. And run with it is what they did. We paired up with a local nonprofit, The Democratic Association of Moroccan Women (ADFM), and together hosted a national women’s leadership conference centered on the film and a women’s leadership manual they had created previously. In addition to this conference, the film was viewed and discussed in all Peace Corps Morocco summer camps with not just the girls but with boys as well.

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Over the summer, not counting individual Peace Corps Volunteer use, the film was seen by 300 youth ages 13-16. There are plans to repeat the women’s conference each year and make the film a standard part of the Peace Corps summer camp curriculum focusing on promoting the values of women and their essential role in economic development.

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Thanks to massive amounts of support both in and out of Morocco, our project was a great success. We were able to share the inspiring messages and lessons learned from rural Moroccan women who overcame a myriad of challenges and emancipated themselves from poverty through continued education and their involvement in economic activities.