Demonstrators and sit-inners meet by the parliament building in solidarity with women.
Rabat – Divided by a sidewalk, two separate protests marched in unison to the parliament building on International Women’s Day (IWD).
In honor of the globally recognized day, a sit-in for women’s rights was hosted by the National Coordinating Body for the Joint Commemoration of International Women’s Day. Across the street, the final installment of the six-day contractual teachers’ protest was taking place with the theme of women in mind.
The Moroccan Association of Human Rights (MAHR) was one of the twelve organizations involved in coordinating the commemoration of IWD. Naija Labrim, a volunteer for the organization, helped plan the sit-in.
“We want women all over Morocco to realize that what we have now is not enough,” Labrim told Morocco World News. “This sit-in, and all the ones before it, are meant to remind people with power and without power that more needs to be done.”
For the last 20 years, Labrim has been attending similar events with the MAHR, which she joined in 1979.
“This movement won’t stop until our demands are met. Things have improved a little over the years but we are far from achieving what we want,” Labrim said. “We will do this again next year, and the year after, and every year after that.”
Labrim continues to hope the decades of protesting have led to change in Moroccan society.
“It takes a lot of time to measure the success of these sit-ins and peaceful protests. I will always hope we made a difference,” Labrim added. “But at least I know each year we have reminded those in power they have more to do for women’s rights.”
Instead of hosting a march, which would require authorization from the Ministry of Interior, the collection of organizations decided on the sit-in.
With a banner in hand, Labrim, along with her associates, were able to bring together more than 50 protestors — at least a dozen more than the year before.
But the chants of “What you give to the men, give to the women,” were not theirs, they were coming from teachers.
At the end of their six-day sit-in that began on Monday, the contractual teachers’ protests came to a stop on the road across from Labrim and the other International Women’s Day demonstrators.
Though the teachers were primarily protesting the government’s refusal to admit them as regular employees, the Friday afternoon march also focused on female educators.
At the forefront of the march, along with many of her colleagues was Imane Ragi, a French teacher from the Sidi Slimane School in Laabyate.
“We always want teachers to be respected, but today, we especially want female teachers to be honored in both the classrooms and the streets,” Ragi told Morocco World News. “I hope the government takes today into consideration and stops insulting and beating teachers around the country.”
This was in direct reference to the violence that occurred during the February 18-20 protests, which left many injured and sparked the week-long rally. No injuries were reported during either of the IWD protests.
Ragi and many of her colleagues, who were present during the February protests, were brought together by the Moroccan National Coordination of Teachers and the National Federation of Teachers. Both unions have organized strategic marches in major cities across Morocco, including Kenitra, Casablanca, Tétouan, Qujda, Errachidia and Marrakech.
“Until we have our rights we will continue to protest,” Ragi said. “Our dream is to be integrated into the government’s public employment, so that we can go back to our students.”
By having the march end in front of parliament, Ragi hopes their message will resonate with those in power. She is especially hopeful, that on International Women’s Day, the females working within parliament will be listening. Following the 2016 election, 81 women were elected to serve in the House of Representatives, making up 21 percent of the parliament.
Chanting along, side-by-side with Ragi were many of her male colleagues.
“Women teachers play the most important role in the education system and they are also the majority of the education system,” said Abdelhaq Zouitina, a national science teacher from Lycée Prince Moulay Rchid School in Tiddass. “We always want to show them our support, especially on International Women’s Day.”
According to the official International Women’s Day website, the history behind the global movement began in a conference room in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was there, during the 1910 International Conference of Working Women, that the idea of having one day a year to celebrate women and reinforce their demands was proposed. This was ultimately accepted and in 1913, March 8 became the globally recognized date.
More than 60 years later in 1975, the United Nations (UN) announced that International Women’s Day be an official day of observance for its member countries — Morocco joined the UN in 1956.
With IWD events occurring all over the world, Ragi hopes the one in Morocco sets an example for the country’s future generation.
“I hope my example is teaching my students to defend their rights to their last breath and to never stop hoping that they will achieve their dreams.”