Washington– Nezha Hayat represents an important milestone in the progress that women have made in Morocco over the past few decades. But, to many, it may be questionable whether she realistically represents the reality of women’s situations.
Hayat is a Moroccan businesswoman who was the first female board member of a major Moroccan bank and head of the Casablanca Stock Exchange. In a recent interview with NPR, Hayat discusses her childhood, which she described as “comfortable,” and modern; she grew up with a father who encouraged his daughters to be financially independent—an anomaly in Morocco, as this occurred in the time before the unprecedented Personal Status Code reforms of the early 2000s.
NPR describes Hayat as a part of the “educated elite”—an exclusive group of men and women in Morocco who have special access to high quality education, large corporations, and a network of other educated elites. Women like Hayat, therefore, are more inclined to climb the ranks of large companies and government institutions—an opportunity that has been made more available by progressive legislation of recent years, and the substantial improvements that the Moroccan women’s movement have demanded from the previously male-dominated Moroccan public life.
Hayat herself stated: “I prefer never to think that an impediment is caused by gender, on the contrary, I have the feeling, at least as far as my country is concerned, that being a woman—of course, educated with access to jobs—gives you greater opportunities today in certain sectors.”
The reality of women’s situations in Morocco, however, is simply that not all women have the opportunity to become leaders in Morocco, nor do they want to. There are many women in Morocco who do not seek to spearhead major reform in the country, but merely seek to be employed, be literate and educated, navigate public life, and be normal citizens with full and universal civil liberties.
Of course the media would portray the bigwigs of women’s politics, the Hayats, the Siddiqis, and the Mernissis, not to their discredit—but rationally, not every woman can be the woman to change the face of politics. Sometimes we see women who are pushed beneath the rug, as is mentioned in the NPR broadcast, but where does the young girl who was raped and forced to marry her rapist, and felt there was no way out but to take her own life fit in to the bigger picture of the advancement of women in Morocco?
Hayat suggests that “media are more interested by gloomy things, and by dramas, and there are more successful stories, and the idea is not to say that everything is alright, but to say ‘it can be done’.”
It is for the women pushed under the rug that female leaders like Hayat, Siddiqi, and Mernissi fight for, and the ‘ordinary’ women, who just want to live normal lives, remind us daily of the fruits of the labor of those female leaders.
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