Meknes - Throughout their history of activism, Moroccan women’s movement organizations have made use of multi-faceted strategies to enhance their visibility in the public sphere, attain more support, keep their cause in the public eye and propagate their beliefs and ideology. These strategies include education, research and publication, and political advocacy.
Meknes – Throughout their history of activism, Moroccan women’s movement organizations have made use of multi-faceted strategies to enhance their visibility in the public sphere, attain more support, keep their cause in the public eye and propagate their beliefs and ideology. These strategies include education, research and publication, and political advocacy.
Indeed, the first and most common strategy to combat women’s inequities and reach the masses with their ideology is education. In fact, the goals of educational programs are multidimensional. First, educational programs are meant to combat illiteracy that is wide-spread among Moroccan women. Similarly, they are meant to teach them skills that facilitate engaging in income-generating activities. Most importantly, educational programs are meant to teach women about their rights and duties. In their 2011 article, “Women as Agents of Grassroots Change: Illustrating Micro-Empowerment in Morocco” Walliam Stephanie and Susan Shafer Davis argue that women’s organizations’ human and legal education programs are comprehensive, participatory and collective. “They cover a variety of rights-based topics and encourage active discussion and participation with groups of women” (p.100). In other words, as Noufissa Ibn revealed in her interview, “we teach them how to handle simple legal cases as well as introducing them to some of the debates that are taking place regarding women’s legal rights”.
Similar to the strategy of conscious-raising programmes, a number of women’s movement organizations have started since the late 1990s, providing space within their quarters to implement their strategies of sensitising different strata of society to their cause In 1997 ADFM (Association Démocratique des Femmes du Maroc) had the chance to join the Ministry education project of rewriting the secondary school text-book through a gender lens. Since then, it has engaged in many training programs for young activists working in NGOs that target rural girls’ education, in addition to occasional workshops on gender issues and human rights.
Another similar women’s organization is LDDF (La Ligue Démocratique pour les Droits de la Femme). This association managed to design its own literacy book for women. This is meant to teach women their rights and the importance of their contribution to their society through specific pictures and activities. LDDF has also opened a library for school children to help them in their homework; research activities; and engage them in focus-groups on gender issues, citizenship, and human rights. All this fall within the objective of reaching and getting the maximum number of adherents and supporters to their cause, as well as working out women’s position in their modern society
The second strategy of women’s movements is to propagate its ideology through research and publication. Publication includes journalism and academic writings, namely, sociology and literature (Sadiqi, Fatima, Dec, 2008). Journalistic writings include newspapers and magazines, which are wide-spread among the educated population. Sadiqi contends that “Journalistic discourse, couched in Arabic and French, evolved around two major issues: (i) a cult of domesticity and (ii) feminist ideology” (Sadiqi, Fatima, Dec, 2008, p. 327). The cult of domesticity includes topics that are meant to improve women’s health; productivity; education; nurturing skills; household management; childbearing; and ‘how to’ be a better, more effective wife or mother. As for feminist ideology, it includes selected biographies of national and international figures.
Indeed, biographies are used as a means to of publicly exposing feminist ideas without directly implicating the writer. Both types of journalistic writings aim at stressing the development of women through the development of their gifts, while highlighting their domestic roles (Sadiqi, Fatima, Dec, 2008). As for the academic writings, they have been pioneered mainly by Leila Abouzied and Fatima Mernissi. These women have tried—through literature and sociological research—to “show how gender differences were created by humans and constructed within specific socio-cultural contexts.” Also, “by questioning the sexual division and ideology on which it is based, the discourse of academic liberal feminists has questioned patriarchy and has emphasized the fact that gender roles are sexuality, and even the division of labour are neither divinely prescribed nor ordained by nature but have historical origins” (Sadiqi, Fatima, Dec, 2008, p. 24).
On the other hand, there are many research centers and study groups that are founded at the university level. They regularly publish research, writing, and other publications as an effective instrument to depict the collective struggle. Members of these groups are usually university professors and PhD holders. Also, in addition to conducting research and publishing articles and books, these centers and groups organize conferences, workshops, and seminars. Further, they open a space for more interaction between university and academic institutions to exchange information and expertise to keep women’s cause in the public eye.
Another important strategy of the women’s movement makes use of its lobbying and political advocacy. In order to promote women’s rights, women’s movement organizations resort to pressuring the government to launch reforms and instigating political parties to take their cause seriously by putting it at the top of their agendas and programs. In this regard, one of the largest efforts of women’s organizations is the “One Million Signature Campaign” in 1992 by which they sought to gain more support to change the Moroccan personal Status Code. Political advocacy includes women’s involvement in political parties, as well as their struggles to take positions onboards and committees for the sake of influencing programs and decision-makings.
Last but not least, women’s activism has produced a number of experienced women who are able to expose and defend women’s cause nationally and internationally. These women—Latifa Jbabdi, Zhor Lhor, Nezha Gussous, and Amina Lamrini, among many others—participate in international seminars, meetings, and conferences.
In conclusion, women’s movement organizations’ techniques and strategies of activism target the promotion of women’s rights through negotiations, provisions, and creation of spaces for self-defense.
– Walliam, Stephanie. & Susan, Shafer. Davis. (Winter 2011). “Women as Agents of Grassroots Change: Illustrating Micro-Empowerment in Morocco (Academic / Other)”Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, 7, (1), 90-119.
– Sadiqi, Fatima. (December 2008). “The Central Role of the Family Law in the Moroccan Feminist Movement”.British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 35, (3), 325-337.
-An interview with NoufissaIbn, a founding member and feminist activist in ADFM section in Casablanca. (My own translation).
-Sadiqi, Fatima (December 2008). Op, cit.
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