Caitlin Dearing Scott, MAC
March 8, 2016
International Women’s Day – every March 8 – offers an occasion to celebrate the achievements of women and the successes of the fight for gender equality while reflecting on the challenges that remain. Morocco kicked off the occasion over the weekend, with the 2nd annual Women’s Day Race in Essaouira, which drew large crowds, and several magazines devoting articles to the topic.
Among the highlights was an article in Jeune Afrique, “Morocco: Mohammed VI, the King for Women,” detailing how “in 16 years of rule, the king of Morocco has reconciled the country with its women,” by making women’s rights a priority, working to reconcile conflicting cultural views on the role of women, investing in women’s education, and encouraging income-generating activities for women. That said, as the author points out, there is “a gap between the very voluntarist policies of the State, led by the king, and a society that cedes to the sirens of conservativism.” Nevertheless, while debate continues over the reforms initiated under King Mohammed VI, there is consensus that they have been “one of the cultural revolutions of the Arab world.”
In another piece, Challenge Magazine published a list highlighting the leadership of 60 women in fields from business to politics and civil society. According to the publishers, the piece was specifically designed to “identify the extent of the skill areas explored by Moroccan women,” and go beyond discussing only women in high-profile positions– though several developments last year have certainly enhanced the role of women in that regard.
For one, new regionalization laws were adopted before the local and regional elections in September, mandating a 27% requirement for women candidates in Communal Councils and a 1/3 requirement in Regional Councils. Increased political participation and representation at the local and regional level should provide further support for the implementation of other women’s rights reforms.
And the recent reshuffling of Morocco’s diplomatic corps has made the country the leader in the Arab and Muslim world for the representativeness of women in diplomacy – a fact the Huffington Post Maghreb chalks up to the 2011 Constitution, which “guarantees women’s rights and ensures their presence in the public sphere.”
Of course, as with the continued fight elsewhere in the world, it is far from over. The challenges of gaps in existing legislation, implementation, and continued cultural conservativism remain. The latest debate is over the need for improved legislation on domestic violence. Women’s groups have been joined by the National Council for Human Rights (CNDH) in advocating for sweeping changes in both the law and practice to address this issue. As a result, a draft law has been in the works for some time.
This reality – of successes achieved and obstacles remaining – is all the more reason to join women in Morocco – and the rest of the world – in celebrating today and committing to the achievement of full gender equality.
For more on the topic, please see our issue brief.