SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

September 30, 2009

Alum studying Arab women's issues

SALEM — Anissa Talantikite is living in an ancient city in Morocco where she is studying women's economic empowerment as a Fulbright Fellow.

Talantikite, 22, graduated from Salem High School in 2005 and attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she earned a degree in political science and international affairs earlier this year.

"She is living with a host family in a 500-year-old home and learning a whole new alphabet," said her mother, Kathy Wholley-Talantikite, a special-education teacher at Salem High School. "We're very proud of her. It's exciting."

Her father, Loucif, is originally from Algeria. Her parents live in Salem.

Sponsored by the Department of State, Fulbright is the largest U.S. international exchange program, according to its Web site.

The Salem News corresponded with Anissa over e-mail to learn about her experience thus far in Morocco.

How did you brainstorm your project?

As a student at UMass Amherst, there is a strong consciousness surrounding women's rights and gender relations, and I'd taken some economics classes that got me thinking about the relationship between women's empowerment and economic freedom. When I read about Argan oil women's cooperatives in Morocco, I really felt excited about the possibilities of this research.

What are you researching?

My research focuses broadly on the topic of women's economic empowerment in Morocco, and in particular, I will be studying a Berber women's cooperative called Targanine that makes and sells Argan oil. The nutrient-rich oil is known to have properties that help preserve healthy skin and diet. ... It's a great mix of promoting sustainable farming, women's rights and economic development.

What is a typical day for you in Fes?

Wake up, four hours of Arabic class, sometimes an additional lecture on culture and walk around a little.¬┬áIt's not very different from life at home, only the language barrier makes for some pretty interesting exchanges.

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