Today is International Women’s Day, a holiday that has been celebrated since the early 1900′s when women began demanding fair pay and better working conditions. While it’s true women still are at an uneven par with men in the workplace the situation in Western nations is much better than that in the developing world. It’s easy to look through a cultural lens and judge other nations short comings, when we have so many of our own and so I hope that this post doesn’t reinforce that stereotypical view. I want to share today about some of the issues that I, and other women living in Morocco have to face.
I have to first make it clear, my situation is different than many Moroccan women. I have an advanced degree, economic options, and am largely excluded from following cultural norms and behaviors. However, I live in a residential area of Marrakech, dress, work, shop, and largely behave as any other woman living here. I have a lot of advantages in my corner, that are a result of where I happened to have been born. Everyday I see and meet women who were not.
There are organizations helping to raise money, awareness, and offer programs to help women and girls such as Global Impact. They’ve partnered with CARE, World Vision, Plan, and International Center for Research on Women to develop a Women and Girls Fund, which addresses not only the effects of gender inequality but also the root causes of it in the developing world.
Did You Know:
- An estimated sixty percent of women have been physically or sexually abused.
- Women produce half of the world’s food, but own less than one percent of the world’s property.
- Each year, about 300,000 women suffer a preventable death during pregnancy and childbirth.
- Two-thirds of the children denied primary education are girls.
- Women and girls make up ninety-eight percent of trafficking victims.
Some of these problems are not as prevalent here. Morocco largely has good quality healthcare, though rural areas still struggle. Primary education is compulsory for boys and girls. But, there are big issues relating to physical and sexual abuse.
Recently I saw this short documentary/film that was a part of the Marrakech Biennele;
The film is about how the victims of rape and sexual abuse feel. Roughly translated it says;
She’ll live with it her whole life, hating herself. She can’t tell her parents. Her life stops when no one comes to help her. Society looks down at her, like she did something horrible. Society says that if the girl gets raped no one wants to marry her, or wants anything to do with her. Why? The man is innocent until they prove he is guilty. The girl she’s immediately guilty until she can prove that she’s innocent. What kills society is the shame and guilt in the society that feels the guilt and shame. I went to court and I was thinking they would help me get my dignity back. No one helps these victims.
This is a real problem. Sexual abuse and harassment happens daily. This is a real problem. Sexual abuse and harassment happens daily. Global Impact’s Women and Girls Fund is investing and addressing these types of gender based violence’s, which happen daily to women all around the world. People might blame the behavior of a girl, what she’s wearing, how she’s walking – anything. It doesn’t matter. I’ve been the recipient of comments when I’m dressed in a full length djallaba and headscarf. I can only imagine what it’s like for others, for Moroccan girls who are going about their daily lives and deal with this behavior. On an administrative level, there is work being done to make changes. There, not so long ago, was a loophole in a law that would allow a rapist to marry his victim and thus escape punishment (for him). This loophole has now been closed. However just this week a woman who killed her (repeated) rapist was sent to prison for ten years for his murder after authorities would not help her.
But, this isn’t to say everything is terrible. I smile when I think of the old man who works as a car park guardian outside my school. He always greets me with a smile wishing me “trek slama binti” (have a safe trip my daughter). Or the men who don’t think twice about stepping in if they see a woman being harassed. Things are changing, slowly.
There are also organizations helping to raise money, awareness, and offer programs to women and girls. This is why programs such as Gloabal Impact are so critical. Here in Morocco programs like the Amal Center (one of my favorite causes in Marrakech) and others work to train disadvantaged women in career paths that will help them earn a living and support their families. Women’s cooperatives like this rug weaving co-op in the Dades Valley give women a safe place to work and earn a living.
Disclaimer: This post is a part of a sponsored awareness program that seeks to help women and girls everywhere live healthy lives wherein they are protected, respected, educated and empowered to reach their potential. Visit www.togetherforwomen.org.