“Freedom is Out of the Bag”
Faiza Hajji Wozniak will be the first to tell you she is driven by pure stubbornness. Raised in an Arab culture, without stubbornness, her future, and the future of hundreds of other women and girls in her homeland of Morocco, would be limited, their dreams buried beneath plastic refuse.
Faiza is the driving force behind IFASSEN, an ethical fashion brand that turns discarded plastic bags into accessories and handbags made by impoverished Moroccan women. Faiza launched IFASSEN in 2008 to bring sustainable development to Berkane, Morocco while fostering women’s empowerment. Today, more than 60 rural women receive a regular income thanks to her program, more than 1,000 children have been sensitized about environmental protection and more than 25,000 plastic bags have been collected and reused.
Raised by her widowed mother, Faiza recalls the stigma her mother faced as a single parent. “I grew up with this feeling of injustice done to women despite all the courage they have,” Faiza said.
That feeling of injustice, coupled with Faiza’s defiance of social mores and love of cycling, was what prompted her to tackle Morocco’s biggest environmental shame—plastic bags contamination. As a teenager Faiza used to cycle around “douar el mika,” the plastic village, an area that is heavily littered with discarded plastic bags—a blight she couldn’t ignore.
While studying in France, Faiza received a grant from the Brittany Committee of French Foreign Trade Advisors to begin her efforts to turn the plastic refuse into functional items. That was in 2006. Since then her organization has received support from embassies in Morocco, cosmetic companies, media corporations and private donors.
– Lauren Malaika Cooper