Berber girls find the way out of rural poverty

In Moroccos Atlas mountains, Berber girls find the way out of rural poverty

The remoteness of many villages meant that secondary school was not an option

Deep in Moroccos High Atlas mountains, in the hamlet of Tazalt, two girls are doing their laundry in stream water. Inside one of the small reddish-brown stone houses, Malika Boumessoud, 38, is serving sweet mint tea and looking at a photo of herself while shaking her head at how old she looks.

In the next room, where five of her six children all sleep on two single mattresses on the floor, Boumessouds daughter Zahra, 19, is preparing to leave this classic scene of rural Moroccan life. She is a participant in a bold new experiment that could transform the lives of the girls and young women in the region: unlike the vast majority of her peers, Zahra is being granted an education.

For the past seven years, she has lived in a boarding house run by a small Moroccan NGO, Education For All (EFA), in the town of Asni, 56 kilometres away. The house is a five-minute walk from the school she has attended during the week since the age of 12. In September, she hopes to go to university in Marrakech. Her mother, who married at 16, is acutely aware of how different her daughters life could have been had Zahra finished school at 12, like most of the other girls in the valley.

I still wish I had gone to school, says Malika. Even after all these years of marriage and having all my children, I still regret not finishing my education. I dont go out of the village, I just stay in the house day after day. I feel like a bird without any wings..

In rural Morocco, her experience is far from rare. Illiteracy rates for rural women and girls remain as high as 90%. Girls, especially those in areas such as the High Atlas, are more likely to drop out after primary school. Only 26% of girls in rural areas enrol for secondary education, according to the World Bank.

These problems disproportionately affect the Amazigh, commonly known as Berbers, the indigenous people of Morocco. While most Berbers adopted Islam and began speaking Arabic after the conquests of the seventh century, Berber culture and dialects of the Tamazight language survived, especially in the High Atlas. At school, lessons are in Arabic, which for most Berber children is their second language, if they have it at all. Unsurprisingly, they do poorly compared with Arabic children.

But in rural areas, its the distance to secondary schools that presents the biggest barrier, especially for girls. Khalid Chenguiti, education specialist at Unicef Morocco says: Girls education, especially at secondary level, remains a challenge. There are many reasons for this, including the fact that schools are often poorly equipped with washrooms and sanitary facilitation, transportation is often difficult and, in some areas, girls are still required to support domestic tasks and face sociocultural barriers for completion of higher secondary education. These factors often disproportionately affect girls in rural areas.

Chenguiti explains why its a crucial problem to solve: Providing girls with an education helps break the cycle of poverty: educated women are less likely to marry early and against their will; less likely to die in childbirth; more likely to have healthy babies; and are more likely to send their children to school.

EFAs solution is to bring the girls to the schools, an approach which is beginning to change the lives of Berber girls in a way that could transform the regions future. Their boarding houses, which are run solely by Berber women, provide accommodation, healthy food, support with homework and extra French and English lessons. On average, the pass rate for all academic years is 97%.

Zahra bubbles with enthusiasm for the chance that has been handed to her: At primary school, I really enjoyed studying but I knew there was little chance I would get to go to secondary school. When I was selected [by EFA], I was so happy. I was really nervous when I first got to the boarding house but I feel like I have found myself since being there.

Literary levels for girls in rural Morocco can be as low as 10% Photograph: Education for All

I believe I will now have a good future and will be able to improve things for my family. My parents have been so supportive. They wanted me to have a better life than the one they have had. My first year of university will be very hard, she says. Im sure, as its a very different life there, but I think it will be good for me.

In bustling Marrakech, which feels like a different planet in comparison to the mountain villages, Khadijah Ahedouami, 21, knows exactly how Zahra is feeling. Three years ago she was in the same position. She has no regrets, but it has been far from an easy road.

I actually failed my first year, she says. Coming to Marrakech and studying all these new subjects was a hard thing for me to do, especially because I had only just got used to learning in Arabic, but at university everything is in French. I also had to get used to living in the city which is so different.

The culture shock wasnt the only thing she struggled with. Her mother had died while she was in upper secondary school and soon afterwards she lost her brother-in-law. I had some family problems and my father had just remarried following the death of my mother.

Even though it was a year and a half after she died, my first year was the hardest time because I was living away from home. With everything going on, I thought if I push myself with my studies, Im going to lose my mind, so I decided it was OK to take things slowly and repeat my first year.

Ahedouami was one of the 10 girls who went to live in Asni with EFA when the first house opened nine years ago. It was her mother who passionately wanted her to have an education because she had grown up in Casablanca, where its normal for girls to be in school. But they first had to persuade her father.

She says: My father agreed we could go to see the house and when we found it, he thought it seemed OK and liked Latifa, the house mother. He asked if I wanted to stay, and of course I said, yes. Studying is my purpose in life.

Khadijah is now not only the most educated girl in her village but the most educated in the whole valley. So respected is she that when she is home villagers come to her house to ask for advice on problems with their businesses or families. A lot of responsibility rests on her young shoulders.

She says: In my final year of school, I started to prepare my parents for the idea that I might go to university. By then, my parents trusted me but they only did because I earned it. During my years with EFA, I learned how to talk to people, how to spend my money, and how to stay respectable. And because other families look to me as an example when trying to decide whether to send their girls to school, I feel like I have to act very responsibly so they know education doesnt make you go off the rails.

Maryk Stroosnijder, one of the founders of EFA, says: I think it is quite hard for the first girls because others look up to them, but the attitudes are slowly changing. The first parents took a risk and now we have parents begging us to take their girls.

Nor is Stroosnijder surprised to hear about Zahras mother feeling like a bird without wings because, she says, many mothers feel the same. But, she adds, they are giving their daughters wings.

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TY &The Alternative Christmas

TY  and The Alternative Christmas

Hebden’s very own Alternative Christmas Day is coming along tomorrow with today being the Alternative Christmas Eve. Silly Billy’s have got our Christmas Globes out, a snip at only £1.99 and we have a Christmas Tree in the Window to compliment the large one in St George’s Square.
Alternative Christmas






There will be events going on in Hebden Bridge and surrounding areas tomorrow and you can see more from our recent Hebden Bridge Events Post

As the title of this post states we have also received more TY at Silly Billy’s and this is what we have received in the Beanie Boo range:

  • Sophie Pink Cat
  • Lindi Cat
  • Maddie
  • Barley
  • Pablo Chihuahua
  • Sami, Orange Fish
  • Leona
  • Tasha, Leopard
  • Flora
  • Sugar Pie
  • Spike

Alternative Christmas





See more TY Posts from Silly Billy’s via:

The information below is courtesy of the HebWeb post as shown originally here: and Visit Calderdale Site here

HRAX‬ aka Hebden Royd Alternative Christmas – 25th June 2016 in Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd. All welcome, residents and visitors alike.


After the devastation caused by the Boxing Day floods tearing through the towns of the Upper Calder Valley, it was suggested that it would be worth “re-running” Christmas Day six months later.

This was met with great local support and we now have well over 1900 people in this group! There have also been interviews on BBC Leeds and the Pulse about it.

Main purposes

  • That the two towns have a party, because they deserve it
  • That we show the outside world we are back up and open for business
  • That we invite those volunteers who came to help us in our time of need to join us for Christmas lunch where those who were helped will serve them

Alternative Christmas







Hebden Royd Alternative Christmas Day!
25th Jun 2016

HRAX aka Hebden Royd Alternative Christmas – 25th June 2016 in Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd.

Primary Locations
– St George’s Square and Bridge Gate
– Riverside School
– Holme Street
– Calder Holmes Park
– Burnley Road Academy Playing Fields
– The Town Hall Hebden Bridge

WHAT’S ON (so far, anyway. There will almost certainly be more.)

Mytholmroyd Gala will be on that day and provide a family oriented hub with a fair ground, stalls for community organisations and a wide range of live music and other cabaret entertainment in its usual site on the school playing fields next to Burnley Road. They will also have one of two large potted Christmas trees providing a focal point for a choir and brass band to perform/lead carols.

Calder Holmes Park in Hebden Bridge will host the Fair For Youth aimed at young people. They will have a variety of events, both to participate in as well as to watch, including live music, a hands-on arts and crafts tent as well as a range of sports and other activities.

Holme Street will be closed for a street party organised by the world famous Trades Club, with DJs, kids activities, bands and a bar.

Riverside School will host a Christmas Lunch for approximately 500 volunteers who helped out durng the floods and their aftermath.

The film, “Elf” will be shown at the Hebden Bridge Picture House with FREE admission treat for the towns folk and visitors alike.

St Georges Square in Hebden Bridge will have a 15ft potted Christmas tree, courtesy of Hebden Royd Town Council, around which the Hebden Bridge Junior Brass Band playing and various choirs will be carol singing. This will also be replicated in Mytholmroyd. These trees will then be replanted as a small part of the flood alleviation efforts.

There will be various performances of Christmas themed street theatre roaming around in all locations, including Mytholmroyd.

There will be six small artificial snow machines in various locations, courtesy of Thingumajig Theatre.

A Christmas Market in Hebden Bridge in Lees Yard.

The Town Hall terrace will be the venue for C I Adventures who will have a small climbing wall and maybe even a little cave for 8-16 year olds

The motorcycle club and 4×4 club who kept a protecting eye on the valley throughout the immediate aftermath of the flooding will perform a drive-through of Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd.

The business community will be having various offers and promotions to coincide with the day and many local pubs and other businesses will be doing their own thing. For example, the White Swan will be hosting an Aussie-Christmas-themed barbecue.

There will be two first aid posts, staffed by St John’s Ambulance. One in the town and one in Calder Holmes Park.

If THAT wasn’t enough, it is also the first day of the Hebden Bridge Arts Festival, so there are all sorts of other events happening. See for more information about these!


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RIBA Awards 2016 – BBC News

RIBA Awards

This post concerns the RIBA Awards 2016 and we hope is of some interest to our readership.

RIBA Awards
Image copyright RIBA
Image caption The hospital, motorway services and abbey were among 46 projects honoured

A grass-roofed children’s hospital, a Yorkshire abbey and a “tranquil” motorway services have honoured by the Royal Institute of British Architects (the RIBA Awards )

Gloucester Services, Liverpool’s Alder Hey Hospital and Stanbrook Abbey near York were three of 46 projects named on the 2016 RIBA National Awards list.

The eclectic list includes a London museum and an Essex housing estate.

A “shimmering stainless steel library” in Oxford, designed by the late Dame Zaha Hadid’s firm, also made the list.

RIBA Awards Montage
Image copyright RIBA
Image caption Cultural winners included the Portland Collection, HOME, York Art Gallery and Sir John Soane Museum

The Sir John Soane Museum in Holborn is one of several cultural spaces honoured, alongside York Art Gallery, Manchester’s HOME and the Portland Collection in Nottinghamshire.

Eleven higher and further education buildings and four schools received the accolade, including the Bob Champion Research and Education Building in Norwich, Poole’s Drawing Studio, Davenies School in Buckinghamshire and the City of Glasgow College.

The Scottish college was one of only four non-English projects honoured, the other being a house in Edinburgh, a research building in Glasgow and a health centre in Northern Ireland’s County Down.

RIBA Awards
Image copyright RIBA

Image caption More traditional designs like Davenies School and Heart of Campus were honoured alongside striking projects like the Investcorp Building and Drawing Studio

RIBA president Jane Duncan said huge investment in education was this year’s “stand-out trend”.

“It is encouraging to see so much emphasis placed on the power of architecture to help institutions to attract students and stand out from the mediocre,” she said.

She also praised the “strong selection of new housing developments” on the list.

“Too often we see projects which have cut corners in quality, which fails the people these new homes are meant to serve.

“I hope these achievements in housing inspire other developers.”

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Lego Creator and More

Lego Creator and More

Lots of new Lego has arrived at Silly Billy’s for the Summer of 2016 including some new Lego creator sets. Silly Billy’s Toy Shop are the Premier retailer of Lego in Yorkshire. Silly Billy’s stays on top of the Trends in Lego Toys and we constantly updating our range and keeping our finger on the Lego Pulse of what is currently trending.









In our new delivery we have received some very exciting Nexo Knights including:
70330 – Ultimate Clay
70331 – Ultimate Macy
70334 – Beast Master
The Nexo Knights range comes with an App that is available from both the Play Store and iTunes see here for the Android version of the Nexo Knights App

Lego Creator is a very exciting product aimed at 6 to 12 year olds,  the Creator range is helpful with creating new models and usually there are three potential models to build in each set, also known as Lego 3 in 1

lego creator

From £5.99







In our Creator range we have new in at Silly Billy’s Toy Shop:
31029 – Cargo Heli
31045 – Ocean Explorer
31043 – Chopper Transporter
31042 – Super Soarer

Star Wars Lego continues to be popular and to mark the continuation of this great product we have obtained Lego 75135 Obi-Wan’s Jedi Interceptor with 75137, The Carbon-Freezing chamber and 75132, First Order Battle Pack with 75131, Resistance Trooper Battle pack
Star Wars






Lego Friends is specifically targeted towards girls:
lego friends






We have Lego City, Lego Classic and a wide range of the Lego Superheroes Range in stock.
From Lego Superheroes we have many lines in stock including:

  • 76048 Iron Skull Sub Attack
  • 76061 Mighty Micros: Batman™ vs. Catwoman™
  • 76062 Mighty Micros: Robin™ vs. Bane™
  • 76065 Mighty Micros: Captain America vs. Red Skull
  • 76066 Mighty Micros: Hulk vs. Ultron
  • 76044 Clash of the Heroes
  • 76029 Iron Man vs. Ultron
  • 76053 Batman™: Gotham City Cycle Chaselego super heroes




Come into Silly Billy’s Toy Shop in Hebden Bridge and explore our Lego Creator range and our massive range of other Lego toys including Lego Disney Minifigures.

Last but not least we also have:
Lego Minecraft 21123 The Iron Golem

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and some Lego Ninjago on our Lego Wall

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Hebden Radio

Hebden Radio

It is out today, give it a listen:

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Follow Hebden Radio on Twitter
hebden radio

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Hebden Bridge Events

Hebden Bridge Events Coming Soon

There are a number of events coming up in Hebden Bridge soon that will appeal to a wide range of people. So here is a short post with some further details and links to the various Hebden Bridge events pages where you can find out more information.

Fair For Youth:
The Fair For Youth is in it’s seventh year now, my eldest son was involved in the earlier years. Now the Fair has a wider age range and it is always a great event in Hebden Bridge for young people. See their Fair For Youth Facebook Page for more details.
The Fair for Youth is on the day before the Handmade parade.
Fair For Youth Saturday 25th June
Handmade Parade Sunday 26th June

Hebden Bridge Events FFY




Handmade Parade Sunday 26th June
There is still time to get involved in workshops for the parade please see our previous Handmade parade post
Hebden Bridge Events HMP



Hebden Bridge School Taster Day
The Hebden Bridge School is having another fantastic taster day, this time looking at renewable energy and it is happening this Sunday 19th June, for more details see
hebden bridge events hbs




The Alternative Hebden Royd Christmas
Due to the crazy experience over Christmas 2015 caused by the incredible flooding to beset Calder Valley, the powers that be have decided to introduce an alternative Christmas, with Christmas Day Part Two being held on Saturday 25th June and Christmas Eve being this time next week. Some local shops are going the whole hog with Christmas Decorations and the like.
You can find out more about what is happening at the Alternative Christmas Day here:
Also as is usually the case in Hebden at Christmas the Festive Fandango is running again so just spend £5 in any shop taking part and collect a sticker, that includes Silly Billy’s Toy Shop. when you have 5 stickers you can enter the prize draw to win a large Hebden Hamper full of goodies. Follow @FestiveFandango for more details.
ALT Christmas




The Hebden Bridge Arts Festival
This is one of the annual Hebden Bridge Events that runs for two weeks and starts on Friday 24th June. The Arts festival is great and brings a lot of new visitors into the town and there is a chance to explore the Open Studios of many of the amazing artists that reside in Hebden Bridge, plus lots of events and activities going on through the fortnight, for more details see:


Hebden Bridge Brass Band March Contest 2016
There is a march contest taking place from St George’s Square on Sunday 19th June at Approximately 1pm.
There are expected to be a minimum of ten competing bands with some famous names from The Brass Band World. Each band will march down Bridge Gate to St George’s Square. Whilst in the square the bands will play a hymn and a contest march of their choice. Winners will be announce at the end of the afternoon of Sunday 19th June 2016

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Hebden Bridge Handmade Parade 2016

Hebden Bridge Handmade Parade 2016

The handmade parade is a fabulous annual event in Hebden Bridge. each summer. This year there are workshops running from 4th to 23rd June 2016 and all ages are welcome to attend the workshops, if you are under 14 you will need to bring an adult with you.

Entry to the workshop is by Donation and the suggested donation is £5 for the first work-shop and £1 each time you attend thereafter.

These are the dates and times of the Workshops for this year’s Hebden Bridge Handmade Parade
Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th June
between 10-12 am and 2-4pm

Tuesday 14th and Thursday 16th
between 4pm and 6pm

Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th June
between 10-12 am and 2-4pm

Tuesday 21st and Thursday 23rd
between 4pm and 6pm and 7pm-9pm

New for 2016
An exciting residency, co-commissioned by the Yorkshire Festival – Russsian Artists from CARDBOARDIA, bringing their sense of cardboard art, politics and play to Hebden Bridge

Parade and Skills Classes
Come and learn to stilt walk, play in the samba band or dance with the women’s dance ensemble. All teens and Adults welcome and no previous experience necessary.
Find out more at

More Information Below:
FACEBOOK Handmade parade

TWITTER Handmade parade


2015 Handmade parade in Hebden Bridge

So Muck-In and attend a workshop and come along to the parade itself which is on Sunday 26th June at mid-day

Silly Billy’s last Post on the Handmade Parade 2015


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New In at Silly Billy’s

Silly Billy has some new products in Store for You

We have had some deliveries here at Silly Billy’s and back by popular demand are the long awaited pull-back Space Shuttles. These Space Shuttles are die-cast with a pull back action and we have not had any in stock since before the Great Flood.

Space Shuttles £5.99

Space Shuttles £5.99

We have been asked for Bubble Guns in the past and now we have some bubble guns at only £2.50. These are mechanically operated guns and do not require any batteries, the bubble guns come with bubble liquid.

bubble-gun £1.99

Bubble Gun £2.50

Also we have some amazing Flying Rings for only £1

Flying-Rings £1

Flying Rings £1

Lastly we have had some new Top Model in store and recently Silly Billy’s has taken delivery of the following Depesche Items:

  • TopModel Lipstick Eraser, very popular and only £1.35
  • TopModel Glitter Gel pen Set
  • Create Your TopModel Kitty
  • TopModel make-up colouring book
  • Fantasy World Sticker World
  • TopModel Design Book and Video
    Top Model Design Book


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Buy Sylvanians in Yorkshire

Silly Billy’s is a major retailer of Sylvanians in Yorkshire

As a major retailer of Sylvanians in Yorkshire and being the premier Independent Toy Shop to buy Sylvanians in Yorkshire we are pleased to announce a further extension to our Sylvanians Range. This includes:

  • Hedgehog Family
  • Walnut Squirrel Family
  • Yellow Labrador Family
  • Chocolate Rabbit Baby
  • Striped Cat Baby
  • Persian Cat Baby
  • Chocolate Rabbit Twins
  • Silk Cat Twins
  • Chihuahua Dog Twins
  • Hedgehog Twins
  • Persian Cat Twins
  • The New Arrival
  • Baby Bath Time
  • Baby Carry Cases

Buy Sylvanians

Buy Sylvanians at Silly Billy’s Toy Shop and help keep Independent Shopping Alive

Read more about Sylvanians at Silly Billy’s 

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