Caitlin Dearing Scott, MAC
March 6, 2015
This Sunday, as women and men from around the world mark International Women’s Day, civil society activists in Morocco will be hitting the streets. A group of Moroccan women from the Coalition for Equality and Democracy are organizing a march for social, legal, and institutional reforms in the area of women’s rights. Representatives from the Coalition, led by Faouzia Assoulli, Yasmina Baddou, Khadija Rouissi, and Mohamed Assid, will join political parties, cultural, civil, and trade groups in the hopes of reaching their goal of one million participants.
The march is just one of the ways Morocco has been marking the annual day that both celebrates women’s achievements and calls for greater equality. Morocco’s activism on women’s rights seems to truly embody this year’s theme for International Women’s Day – #MakeItHappen.
On February 27, the Minister Delegate for Foreign Affairs, Mbarka Bouaida, and the Minister of Solidarity, Women, Family, and Social Development, Bassima Hakkaoui, held a conference in partnership with UN Women entitled, “Women’s Rights in Morocco, 20 years after Beijing.” The aim of the conference was to reflect on the progress in women’s rights achieved under King Mohammed VI’s leadership, renew political commitment to this issue, and mobilize public opinion in favor of gender equality and women’s empowerment in Morocco.
Speaking at the conference, Minister Delegate Bouaida outlined Morocco’s proactive and committed approach to promoting women’s rights through structural reforms and other measures to strengthen the role of women in building a modern society. Such reforms include the 2004 reform of the family code (moudawana), which strengthened women’s role within the family and society, and the 2011 Constitution, which enshrines gender equality and reinforces women’s civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights and freedoms.
The representative from UN Women in the Maghreb, Leila Rhiwi , acknowledged this commitment – noting that Morocco has made equality a central issue in both governance and sustainable human development.
Of course, much more remains to be done, particularly in changing societal attitudes on the role of women. This is why activism like this Sunday’s march is so important. As Minister Delegate Bouaida noted in her remarks, “it is of the utmost importance that all of the forces in Morocco remain mobilized to advance this perpetual fight that is the promotion of the condition of women, the development of her capacities, and its complete integration in development.” Toward this end, she praised the role of civil society in sustaining the fight for equality. For Morocco, legislative and legal reforms – such as the moudawana – have been most successful when they are coupled with pushes for change from the bottom; civil society activism is an essential component in changing attitudes – something that laws cannot do.
While the march may or may not hit one million participants, women and men in Morocco at all levels of society – government, political parties, and civil society – are committed to achieving gender equality and empowering women. Truly making it happen.