The Moroccan ambassador urged the inclusion of women in decision-making processes, describing the day as a “bittersweet” occasion.
Rabat – Today, Morocco’s Ambassador to the US, Princess Lalla Joumala Alaoui, delivered a speech on International Women’s Day during a Webinar event.
The Moroccan diplomat highlighted the persistent challenges women continue to face, around the world, in achieving gender equality.
Advancement of women, a top priority in Morocco
The Moroccan ambassador pointed out that the advancement of women in Morocco has been a priority for King Mohammed VI, as well as his father King Hassan II and his grandfather King Mohammed V.
“I am indeed proud to represent a country where, for decades, the advancement of the status of women has been a priority of His Majesty and His forefathers, and where the Constitution enshrines gender equality,” she said.
Taking pride in representing Morocco to the United States, she said she does not see herself as a pioneer, but as “merely and humbly perpetuating the tradition of a very long line of trailblazing Moroccan women.”
She mentioned many Moroccan women who have shone in Morocco and elsewhere throughout history, such as Fatima Al Fihriya, founder of Al Qarawiyine university, the world’s oldest university, as well as Princess Lalla Aicha, who became the first Arab woman to serve as Ambassador, representing Morocco in the United Kingdom in the 1960s.
Princess Lalla Joumala went on to add that women “have always been, and continue to be, a force of positive change in Morocco.”
Lalla Joumala said the women empowerment challenge depends on the support of all of “society’s stakeholders,– both male and female.”
She described the event as a “bittersweet occasion,” recalling that March the 8th is a great opportunity to celebrate women’s rights and their achievements but also an event that emphasizes the issues women face across the region.
For Lalla Joumala, the date allows us to focus on the “persistent challenges we continue to face around the world, in achieving gender parity.”
COVID-19 impacts on gender equality
The COVID-19 pandemic is among the crises that have contributed to the widening of the gender gap and among marginalized groups, including women, the ambassador emphasized.
Several reports highlighted the situation of women in Morocco during the pandemic, listing the challenges amid the COVID-19 crisis..
The High Commission for Planning (HCP) acknowledged that the financial situation for women in Morocco significantly deteriorated during the COVID-19 crisis.
Data shows that approximately 72.2% of women working in commerce lost their entire income during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, 45.8% of men working in the sector were no longer able to maintain their livelihood.
The study showed that COVID-19 affected women more than men across all sectors, including industry, services, and agriculture.
Joumala voiced the challenges that all women face, describing the region as not “an easy” one for women.
“Let us be honest, our region is not an easy one, and like everywhere in the world, women are often the biggest victims of conflict and instability,” she said.
The challenges highlight the need for women’s voices to be heard and listened to.
“While the role of women in peacebuilding is key to any form of sustainable peace, the formal place they are granted is too often minimal,” she argued.
She said that women stand firm against any form of marginalization and diminishment, recalling that in the Middle East and elsewhere, “you will see women find alternative and creative ways, outside the official realms of power, to exert influence.”
Lalla Joumala stressed the importance of including women in decision-making processes.
Feminists and activists across the country have been calling on the Moroccan government to ensure women are represented in high-ranking positions and to make progress towards gender parity.
The current government allocated only 11.8% of high-ranking positions to women, equating to 137 positions out of 1,160 senior appointments.
In its latest report released in January, the Democratic Association of Moroccan Women (ADFM) criticized the exclusion of women in senior positions and decision-making positions.
“Our challenge then becomes to translate the leverage gained from this grassroots approach and ensure that it leads to the meaningful participation of women in decision-making processes,” the Moroccan ambassador to the US said.
Including women in the Abraham Accords
Lalla Joumala also called for the inclusion of women to ensure the success of the Abraham Accords between Arab countries and Israel.
“As our countries seek to deepen their partnerships across all sectors, the contribution of women must be encouraged. For if the breakthroughs brought about by these agreements are to be long-lasting, they must be inclusive,” Lalla Joumala said.
She said women are fully involved in the implementation of the Joint Declaration between the US, Morocco, and Israel. The three countries signed the declaration on December 22, just a week after Morocco announced its decision to establish ties with Israel.
“For the Moroccan women supporting this dynamic, it is not only about seizing political, social and economic opportunities. It is also about honoring a common history and shared identity by reconnecting with the thousands of Israeli women of Moroccan heritage who share a language and so many cultural traditions,” the ambassador emphasized.
Several diplomats participated in the event, including the ambassador of Israel to US, UNGilad Erdan, Shaima Gardash, deputy chief of mission Embassy of the UAE to the US, and Rose Saqr, Trade Representative at the Embassy of Bahrain in the US.