Fez - Although Article 19 of the 2011 Constitution states that men and women should enjoy equal rights and freedoms in all civil, political, economic, social, cultural and environmental matters, Morocco is ranked 131 out of 142 countries for equal gender rights, according to the Global Gender Gap Report of 2014. The situation is even worse for rural women in Morocco.
Fez – Although Article 19 of the 2011 Constitution states that men and women should enjoy equal rights and freedoms in all civil, political, economic, social, cultural and environmental matters, Morocco is ranked 131 out of 142 countries for equal gender rights, according to the Global Gender Gap Report of 2014. The situation is even worse for rural women in Morocco.
Societal problems, stereotypes, and lack of income sources stand in the way of rural women’s path to progress. As a result, they resort to marriage at an early age and depend mostly on their husbands to survive.
Indeed, Morocco is among the worst countries for women, according to a recent report from the World Economic Forum. In rural areas, 83 percent of women marry when they are minors, and some are as young as 13 years old. These girls should be at school instead. They are neither physically nor mentally able to shoulder responsibilities such as caring for their husbands and bearing children.
Poverty and a lack of education contribute to the social degradation of women in rural areas where there is slow economy and limited opportunities. Schools are often far from home, and families are reluctant to send their daughters to study due to the high expenses. Moreover, in such areas, tradition and norms dictate women’s roles. They are to get married, do household chores, and raise kids. Frequent interaction with men in public or being single is socially stigmatized. That is why girls are monitored and raised to fit in with these socially imposed roles.
In rural areas, honor there is sanctified, and girls must show chastity. They rarely go out outdoors and they must show obedience to strict social norms. By doing this, girls brighten their ancestry and protect their ‘’honor’’. A girl who breaches these rules may bring shame to her family. As a result, families keep their daughters at home as soon as they reach puberty in order to avoid any problems that may affect their reputation.
Women in rural areas are suffering, but society is oblivious. To empower them, we have to change our habits and strengthen them socially, economically and culturally.
As a first step, Morocco must start an effective project to help involve rural areas in sustainable development, taking into consideration the exceptional circumstances of women. Lack of education further exacerbates the situation, as it promotes stereotypes and deprives women of their basic rights.
In this respect, building enough schools and facilitating access to them would guarantee a better future for girls, as it will instigate change by displaying models of successful women in the Moroccan and international context. Mass media is also invited to play its role in making people aware of the importance of women’s participation in social life. This latter should be explained through campaigns, radio programs, and short TV ads.
Muslim scholars, who find great legitimacy among the people in rural areas, can be sent on special missions to help end stereotypes. There are various convincing stories from the Prophet’s life that honor women and praise their participation in social development. Preaching such ideas is critical to decreasing gender gap and giving new impetus to gender equality.
Morocco needs each citizen to take part in developing the economy. Women are part of this project. Hence, their empowerment is a must, and it is the responsibility of all Moroccans.
Empowering women in rural areas will be effective if Morocco succeeds in changing the areas’ patriarchal way of thinking. Women should be aware that they are not under the control of men. They are independent entities that can contribute to society the same way men can. Morocco’s dream is to witness the perfect partnership of men and women.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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