By Lahcen Ait Idir
By Lahcen Ait Idir
Azilal, Morocco, Malika, a rural woman from Azilal, 163 kilometers north east of Marrakech, told me once: “we, women, are the most oppressed group by society and the State.”
This quote remains undoubtedly of paramount relevance as far as the theme of the present article is concerned. Deeming this young woman as the prototype, the rural women are everlastingly the victim of the apparatus of exclusion in which they are relegated to the status of ‘subalterns’ perceived by both the so-called ‘government’ and the patriarchal society as having less worth.
Despite the pivotal role they [should] play in society, women, namely in remote areas in the the Atlas mountains, keep enduring a number of challenges, many of which are due to the patriarchal established mode of thinking that is very evident in all walks of life. Through men’s eyes, women are but means to attain certain ends. In fact, women are not fully recognized as human beings, and the work they are entrusted with is a clear testimony.
No sooner has Malika, like many other women of her neighborhood, got up than the clock crows for the first time at dawn announcing the start of a day replete with much hard work and many enigmatic tasks that are supposedly men’s specialty. Because of her miserable situation and the too much labor she is assigned, Malika can hardly be distinguished with the donkey she accompanies wherever she sets foot, and with which she shares the predicament of life. What in fact breaks the camel’s back is that her countless efforts are never appreciated and she never gets even a symbolic ‘recompense.’
Malika got married at an early age, and she has been the pillar of a family consisting of an army of children, the basic needs of whom she has to regularly cater for. She never set foot in school and didn’t get her share of education which is viewed through men’s perspective as irrelevant, in that it doesn’t keep any correspondence with the typical features of her own society as well as the traditions their forefathers left. The myth that men are the sole decision-makers and women are decision-doers is kept reverberating to the extent that women start believing they have got no right to voice their opinions, and they always have to do what they are told to do.
Because of her sheer ignorance and illiteracy, Malika thinks that the entire world is confined to what her eyes can see; being therefore oblivious of the fact that there are women in cosmopolitan cities who are fully recognized and are endowed with more than what they need. This idea leads eventually to talk about the state’s policies with sufficient regard to the issue of ‘women’. Officially speaking, the Azilali rural women belong to what has been called ‘the worthless Morocco.’ The state seems to turn its eyes to the question of the rural areas in general, and the rural women in particular. As a matter of course, women are perceived of as second-class citizens, and they are needed only when they have to vote for someone who will climb the social ladder at their expense.
The official responsibles keep claiming that much importance has been given to the question of women, but the reality tells another different story. Women, especially girls are denied any attention, and their presence at schools is seen as not perforce being of any worth. Hence, many of them are not given the opportunity to attend schools, and if they are, they will not go beyond primary school. The absence of infrastructure and the teaching stuff are further main factors that contribute to the rural women’s frustrating status they have got.
What is most dismaying is that even the so-called ‘feminist associations’ have exploited this issue of the rural women only but to serve their own interests. This brings to mind with great clarity the fact that the rural woman is not only deceived and exploited by her male-counterpart, but also by ‘pseudo-activists’ of her own sex. These associations keep discussing the rural women’s issues in five stars’ hotels in the center coming up, therefore, with some utopian laws which are never put into practice as they have many pitfalls. Conspicuous as it is, the conspiracy against women has many sources, namely the state’s planned policies of exclusion as well as the patriarchal based mode of thought. The coming article will look at some possible alternatives that may be adopted with a view to go beyond the anxious current state of the Azilali rural women.
Photo credit: Mustapha Ait Oubba
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