This March of 2020, a majority of Americans are practicing social distancing by staying in our homes with Wifi and stocked pantries. Yet, we continuously complain as if social distancing is not actually a privilege. In times like these we should instead be grateful that we have a roof over our heads and a family to support us.
Back in June of 2019, I came into contact with Nara, an 18 year old Moroccan girl who currently resides in Sevilla, Spain. However, she had called Spain her home for little more than a year when I met her, and during our conversation she proceeded to tell me an amazing story about her choice to migrate to Europe.
When Nara was 17 years old, she and her mother had taken a trip to Spain with a three month visa. When their visas were about to expire, her mother gave her an incredibly difficult choice. Nara could either return with her mother to their home in Tangier, Morocco, or stay in Spain, alone.
Nara chose to stay in Spain.
From what Nara explained to me, if you are a Moroccan in Spain as a seventeen-year-old or younger, they’re allowed to stay after their Visa expires and get “papers.” However, if you’re 18 or older, you have to return once the expiration date is reached. Consequently, when Nara’s mother departed forMorocco by ferry, Nara was left on her own to seek out the Spanish police. With no Spanish language skills of her own, she had to find her way into their migrant system.
Currently Nara lives with her aunt, but while she was a minor she had to live in a government-sponsored home with other children whose parents couldn’t care for them for various reasons–be the ymigration or domestic reasons.
Nara explained to me that she was the only girl in this house while she lived there, that she wasn’t allowed to use her own mobile phone (a policy of the house to protect the children), and that she was only allotted 10 minutes a week to call her parents back in Morocco. A native Arabic speaker, Nara had to navigate a new European culture while learning a new language in order to assimilate…all at 17 years old.
As Nara told her story, I was absolutely flabbergasted. I could not think of a 17 year old whom I knew who would have had the maturity to leave her family for her own benefit, let alone do so in a country where she didn’t speak the native language. When I asked Nara why she chose to leave Morocco, she told me that she wanted the opportunity to earn her own income after high school education, be regarded as equal to men by society, and be able to retire with financial security. She divulged that from her experience in Morocco, once women get married, “no hacen nada.” She continued to state that in some parts of rural Morocco, wives cannot even go to the police if they are being abused by their husbands
Prior to meeting with Nara, I had spent some days in Tangier, Morocco. To me, Tangier seemed to be rather socially liberal, compared to other Arab and African countries. However, Nara offered me a new perspective I could not have discovered as an innocent tourist about a reality some female Moroccans face. Getting to speak with Nara was extremely humbling, but also helped to make me more grateful that I am offered an education and gender equality within my home country. Nara’s story is only one of millions involving a difficult migration. However, her story gives me hope. When I met her, Nara had become fully fluent in Spanish in less than a year, was a student at a local high school, and excitedly hoping to pursue a career as a hairstylist. Her adaptability, initiative, and ambition should serve as inspiration for everyone.
Please feel free to comment any reactions or suggestions below! It is important to generate discussions based upon the stories we read and engage with others to help celebrate the diversities and multiplicities that make up our world.