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Amal Women's Training Center and Moroccan Restaurant

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Amal Women's Training Center and Moroccan Restaurant
  • جمعية الامل لفنون الطبخ
  • Association Amal pour les Arts culinaires en faveur des femmes nécessiteuses
The word "Amal" written in green in Arabic and orange in English with a picture of an orange tagine at the left-hand side
Logo of Amal Women's Training Center and Moroccan Restaurant
  • Empowering women to build hopeful futures
  • Pour les arts culinaires en faveur des femmes nécessiteuses
FormationNovember 2012; 6 years ago (2012-11)
FounderNora Belahcen Fitzgerald
Legal statusNon-profit association
Coordinates31°38′20″N 8°00′50″W / 31.63895°N 8.01376°W / 31.63895; -8.01376Coordinates: 31°38′20″N 8°00′50″W / 31.63895°N 8.01376°W / 31.63895; -8.01376
Official languages
Arabic, English, French
Moulay Hassan Aladlouni
Staff (2015)
Volunteers (2015)

Amal Women's Training Center and Moroccan Restaurant (Arabic: جمعية الامل لفنون الطبخ‎; French: Association Amal pour les Arts culinaires en faveur des femmes nécessiteuses) is a non-profit organization in Marrakesh, Morocco, that helps disadvantaged women gain work experience by training them in the preparation of Moroccan food and international food.[1][2] The center was established in 2012 by Nora Belahcen Fitzgerald. Each year 30–40 women complete four to six months of training, which often leads to them finding employment in a relevant field.[3][4]


A banner with the center's logo hanging next to 2 large wooden doors that open to the restaurant's courtyard
Entrance to Amal Women's Training Center and Moroccan Restaurant

Nora Belahcen Fitzgerald first conceived of the idea of creating an organization to help Morocco's underprivileged women through career training in 2006 after meeting a single mother begging on the street who lived on 20–30 dirhams per day (about €2.70, $3.40 in 2006).[5][6] Belahcen Fitzgerald was inspired by the Association Solidarité Féminine, which helps single mothers overcome poverty and social stigma by providing them with shelter, counselling, and vocational training. She decided to begin helping women by teaching them to make baked goods in her family's language center.[7] This proved to be successful, and the participants were able to make more money using their new skills than by begging. In 2008, Belahcen Fitzgerald began hiring underprivileged Moroccan women to cook for events she organized for her friends.[8]

In 2012 Belahcen Fitzgerald found a property to rent and registered Amal Women's Training Center and Moroccan Restaurant as a non-profit organization.[8] In early 2013 the center raised more than $7300 through crowdfunding on RocketHub, exceeding its $5000 goal. The money was used to purchase kitchen equipment and to ensure the kitchen was up to code.[9][10] The restaurant opened in April 2013, and in July 2013, the center was awarded a three-year grant by the Drosos Foundation with the goal of making the program self-sustaining by 2016. The first group of trainees began training in February 2014.[5][11] Within the first month of operation, several of the restaurant's customers had expressed interest in hiring future Amal graduates to work at local hotels and restaurants.[8] The center completed a second round of crowdfunding on RocketHub in 2014, raising more than $9600.[12] In October 2015 the center was awarded €25,000 by the Orange Foundation.[13][14] Belahcen Fitzgerald stated that the prize money would be used to help women start their own catering micro businesses.[13][15]


Trainees serving customers who are seated outside under umbrellas
Outdoor seating on the restaurant's terrace

The restaurant's menu changes daily and includes traditional Moroccan dishes as well as international selections.[7] The restaurant is open for lunch daily from 12:00 to 16:00, and for dinner by reservation for groups of 20 or more. A playroom and nursery, staffed by an American preschool teacher, is available for the children of staff and customers. Moroccan cuisine cooking classes for the public are available in Arabic, English, and French.[8] As of August 2018 the restaurant averages 100 customers per day.[16]


The center's trainees are generally divorced mothers, widows, orphans, or former child maids, aged 18–35, who have little or no formal education.[17] Participants are selected through partnerships with other non-profits or by the center's social worker, based on the criteria that they are economically disadvantaged and are motivated to train to achieve financial independence.[8][18] Around 15–20 women are chosen twice a year to complete four to six months of training.[3] After graduating from the training center, they are provided support to find relevant employment.[5][19] As of June 2015 80% of Amal graduates have found employment in a relevant field.[4][20] Over 200 women have been trained at the organization as of August 2018.[16]

Staff and volunteers[edit]

3 trainees dressed in white, cooking with the restaurant's chef who is dressed in black. A young volunteer is taking the food to serve to customers.
Trainees and volunteers preparing lunch with the culinary teacher in the center's kitchen

As of March 2018 the center has 25 full-time employees, including program staff and culinary teachers.[5][21]

As of 2015 the center has 12 full-time volunteers: an Arabic teacher, two English teachers, two French teachers, a translator, a life coach, two hygiene teachers, a psychologist, and two teachers who help the trainees develop conflict-resolution and communication skills. There are also several part-time volunteers, who help in various capacities as needed. The center also employs a social worker with a PhD in clinical psychology, who provides counselling.[5][8][7]

Belahcen Fitzgerald is the president of the organization. The managing director is Moulay Hassan Aladlouni.[8]


Program participants receive job training, are trained in culinary arts and attend arts and crafts classes.[5] They are provided with two meals a day, a transportation stipend, life-skills coaching, individual and group therapy, and a bonus upon successful completion of the program. Language classes are offered in Arabic literacy (because many of the trainees are illiterate), English, and French. In partnership with Search for Common Ground, the center educates the trainees on subjects such as life planning, empowerment, Nonviolent Communication, and reproductive health.[18][8] Center staff help participants find employment with outside businesses upon graduation.[7][8]

About 45% of the training center's revenue comes from restaurant sales, 5% from private donations, and the remaining 50% from the Drosos Foundation.[22][23] All profits are reinvested into the training program.[5]

Belahcen Fitzgerald has stated the desire to train additional women by opening a separate catering service that would make lunches for school children.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Reidy, Eric (5 January 2015). "Women SenseTour: 5 months, 5 countries, 25 changemakers". Wamda. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  2. ^ Cimpanelli, Giulia (7 July 2015). "Amal, il ristorante che regala un futuro alle donne marocchine" [Amal, the Restaurant Offers a Future for Moroccan Women]. IO Donna (in Italian). Retrieved 16 July 2015.
  3. ^ a b Zouak, Sarah (16 April 2015). "Portrait of Nora Belahcen Fitzgerald – Cuisine For Women in Need". Women's WorldWide Web. Retrieved 22 April 2015.
  4. ^ a b "Our Highlight of the Month with the Amal Women's Training Center and Restaurant – Morocco". Make Every Woman Count. 30 June 2015. Retrieved 6 July 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Zouak, Sarah (2 December 2014). "Portrait de Nora Belahcen Fitzgerald, "Après des années de servitude, elles sont devenues leur propre chef!"" [Portrait of Nora Belahcen Fitzgerald, "After Years of Servitude, They Become Their Own Bosses!"]. MENA Post (in French). Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 4 March 2015.
  6. ^ "Une Marocaine au concours "Women for Change"" [A Moroccan in Competition "Women for Change"]. Médias 24 (in French). 28 September 2015. Retrieved 29 September 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d Benoit, Brooke (June 2014). "Tagine From The Heart in Marrakech". SISTERS Magazine. Archived from the original on 14 July 2015. Retrieved 6 July 2015.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i Erin Kilbride (1 March 2014). "Morocco's Amal Center: Women Train For Economic Empowerment". Muftah. Retrieved 4 March 2015.
  9. ^ "Amal Women's Training Center and Moroccan Restaurant". RocketHub. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  10. ^ "Crowdfunding Case Study: Amal Women's Training Center on RocketHub". Ripples Edge Media. 8 August 2014. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  11. ^ "Una Oportunidad Para Mujeres Vulnerables" [An Opportunity for Vulnerable Women]. La Vuelta Al Mundo (in Spanish). 30 September 2014. Retrieved 4 March 2015.
  12. ^ "Expansion Efforts for Moroccan Women's Center Working to Employ & Empower!". RocketHub. Retrieved 28 March 2015.
  13. ^ a b "Two Projects in Favour of Women in the Mediterranean Rewarded". Orange. 16 October 2015. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  14. ^ Filla, Timothy, ed. (16 October 2015). "Morocco's Nora Belhcen Fitzgerald Wins Women for Change Award". Morocco World News. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  15. ^ "Women for Change Orange Foundation Award: Nora Belahcen Fitzgerald, Morocco". Orange. 2015. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  16. ^ a b Rosman, Rebecca (21 August 2018). "By Becoming Chefs, Stigmatized Women In Morocco Find Hope And Freedom". NPR. Retrieved 2 November 2018.
  17. ^ Morrow, Madeleine (15 March 2018). "Cooking classes lift the lid on a new life for the poor". Business Day. Retrieved 2 November 2018.
  18. ^ a b Belahcen Fitzgerald, Nora (24 January 2014). "So you want to start a non-profit..." Retrieved 28 March 2015.
  19. ^ Griggs, David H. (2 November 2015). "Griggs: Dateline Morocco 2015". Los Alamos Daily Post. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  20. ^ Igrouane, Youssef (1 October 2015). "Nora Belahcen Fitzgerald: The Change Maker who Brings Hope to Marginalized Moroccan Women". Morocco World News. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  21. ^ Zalan, Kira (8 March 2018). "Moroccan Eatery Serves Hope for Women—and Dessert". Rewire.News. Retrieved 2 November 2018.
  22. ^ "HUMAN RIGHTS: American Women of the Eastern Province Skills for Life- sponsored in part by AILO Florence-$4500". FAWCO Foundation. 2014. Retrieved 4 March 2015.
  23. ^ "Vocational training for mothers / Morocco". Drosos Foundation. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 4 March 2015.
  24. ^ Ochieng, Akinyi (8 February 2016). "Amal Center: Empowering Morocco's Most Disadvantaged Women". Ayiba Magazine. Retrieved 10 February 2016.

External links[edit]