50 Best Restaurants Honors Sign Language Café As Champion Of Change

50 Best just announced its Champions of Change 2023 recipients, and one of the two establishments being honored this year is a sign language café in Morocco. The organization 50 Best doles out awards to restaurants in multiple categories each year — it's perhaps best known for its list of The World's 50 Best Restaurants but also recognizes Asia's 50 Best Restaurants, The World's 50 Best Bars, and more. The Champions of Change award, which was created in 2021, "celebrates gamechangers in the hospitality community taking positive action."

Taking positive action is exactly what the Moroccan café does. Part of the larger nonprofit Amal, which was founded and is run by Nora Fitzgerald Belahcen, the Sign Language Café in Marrakech is staffed by deaf women and models a company run by deaf people. In a world where the deaf are often overlooked, Fitzgerald Belahcen aims to help them feel "comfortable taking up space in society" and showing their resiliency. "I'm thrilled to win this award on behalf of all the women I have worked with and for whom gastronomy has been a life-changing path," Fitzgerald Belahcen says in a press release. "I've long believed in the power of food to nourish and to heal, to bring us together and to change lives."

The Sign Language Café is the only deaf-run café in Marrakech

The Sign Language Café, which is the only deaf-run café in Marrakech, was founded in 2018 as part of a larger non-profit organization that helps empower disadvantaged women. The social enterprise is based on the observation that working women are underpaid and undervalued in Morocco. According to Amal, women only account for a striking 25% of the Moroccan workforce — a low percentage that continues to be a driving force for the café.

The non-profit also includes a restaurant, culinary training program, cooking class, and catering service, all run by women. In 2019, it launched Moroccan sign language classes to empower more people to be able to communicate with the Marrakech deaf community. The Sign Language Café, which now serves about 4,000 students in the language school, was born when sign language graduates had a difficult time finding work.