MOROCCAN WOMEN THROUGHOUT HISTORY
1- Moroccan women before the arrival of Islam. The Amazigh woman
Before the spread of Islam in Morocco, which obtained the Arab conquest, Morocco was part of a region inhabited mainly by a non-Arab Amazigh population. Several Amazigh tribes during the 4th, 4th, and 6th centuries were found to be matrilineal, such as the Tuareg tribes of North Africa. As such, Amazigh women were seen to have assumed important roles in local communities. This was especially evident through the figure of Kahina, a prominent Amazigh military leader who fought against Arab and Muslim expansion in North Africa.
Women in parts of North Africa originally inhabited by Amazigh (Berber) people were called “Tamghart”, which is equivalent to the word “president”.
Throughout history, women have always been responsible for the management of economic, social, cultural or even religious affairs and were a source of life and prosperity. Women were never granted low status in Amazigh society.
Even today in certain regions of Morocco there are Amazigh societies that preserve their language and traditions, but they are all Muslim.
Amazigh moroccan woman
2. History of women in Morocco after the arrival of Islam
In 622 AD, when Islam came to Morocco, Moroccan women received three basic rights under the Muslim religion: the right to live, the right to be honored and respected as a mother, and the right to have business and be available to work. From the 1940s until the Moroccan declaration of independence from the guardianship of France in 1956, Moroccan women lived in family units known as the harem, where extended families live together as a unit and where women are confined and have permission from the men to go out. Among his activities during that period will be housework, embroidery and crafts, attending Koranic schools and going to the hammam. The tradition of the harem lifestyle for women gradually ended with Morocco’s independence from France in 1956.
After the independence of France, the Moroccan woman claimed the right to go to schools that teach not only Islamic teachings but also science and other subjects. Since the institution of the Mudaana legal code in 2004, the Moroccan woman acquired the right to divorce, have the custody of children and property.
Women have played an important role in the conception of the Moroccan state. Their role has ranged from transmitting oral traditions and stories, to forging the founding of important institutions, to their participation in resistance to colonialism, and to occupying positions of power after the establishment of the Moroccan state, women played and continue to play an important role in Morocco.
MOROCCAN WOMEN NOWADAYS
A 2019 US News & World report indicated that Morocco is not among the countries where women have a better quality of life and ranked it 63rd out of 80.
A survey of 9,000 women was conducted in 36 countries around the world, spread across Europe, Asia, Africa, North and Central America, Latin America and the Middle East, researchers from the US. USA They were based on five key indicators to determine if a country could be considered a “friendly for women”: human rights, gender equality, equal pay for men and women, progress and security, and Morocco had a low overall rate of 2.1 out of 10. Morocco ranked fifth in the Arab world after the United Arab Emirates (30), Qatar (39), Saudi Arabia (40), Oman (53), Lebanon and Egypt behind Morocco. Tunisia ranks worse with 77th out of 80 countries.
Some figures that represent the socio-economic situation of women in Morocco (source from the National Statistical Institutes survey):
The number of women in mid-2018 was estimated at 17.67 million, representing just over half of the Moroccan population (50.1%). Among those under 15, almost 49% are women and among those over 60, this proportion reaches almost 51%.
In 2017, 18.4% of heads of household are women, 22.8% of whom live alone. 7 out of every ten female heads of household are widows or divorced and 65.6% of them are illiterate. Most (75%) are inactive.
Considerable drop in maternal mortality.
Maternal mortality, which peaked at 332 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 1992, has decreased by almost 66% in twenty years, to 112 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2010. However, the maternal mortality rate in rural areas it is still twice that in urban areas. This is due to the lack of prenatal consultations in rural areas. Furthermore, large disparities persist with regard to delivery in a health facility. 73.7% of pregnant women benefit in rural areas compared to 96% in urban areas, according to the results of the 2018 national survey on population and family health.
Fertility fell from 4.46 children per woman in 1987 to 2.2 children in 2014. Rural fertility fell from 5.95 children per woman in 1987 to 2.5 in 2014, and urban fertility fell to 2 children per woman, per which fell below the generation replacement threshold.
Girls continue to be the main victims of marriage before the age of 18. This type of marriage mainly affects girls with a rate of 94.8% of all unions involving minors.
Literacy and education: women still disadvantaged
Despite the progress made, one in ten girls aged 7 to 12 does not attend school in rural areas and 14.8% of girls aged 15 to 24 are illiterate compared to 7.2% of children of the same age. In 2014, six out of ten rural women were still illiterate, compared to 35.2% of rural men and 30.5% of urban women.
According to data from the 2018 National Employment Survey, the participation rate of women is barely 22.2% nationwide. It represents, in relative terms, a little less than a third of that of men (70.9%).
Furthermore, women experience unemployment more intensely than men. Their ever-increasing unemployment rate remains much higher than men’s (14% vs. 8.4% in 2018). Female activity is also characterized by its precariousness. In 2017, almost 40.5% of employed female workers (compared to 9% of men) are unpaid caregivers.
Furthermore, only 8.9% of employers and 14.1% of independent workers in Morocco are women. More than a quarter of young people aged 15 to 24, or 1.7 million young Moroccans, do not work, do not go to school and receive no training; 80% of which are women. Moroccan women’s access to senior and senior positions in the public administration was around 22% in 2016. They are represented by 81 women out of 395 deputies in parliament.
Moroccan woman´s hand with henna design
Cooperatives leaded by moroccan women
The cooperative movement has given a strong entrepreneurial dynamic to Moroccan women.
This drive is more visible in rural areas where women have achieved a certain financial and social autonomy. Rural women, through their participation in the cooperative field, were able to confirm their position as an active element in a long patriarchal society. Emancipation has taken place in this regard, giving rural women more weight in the local economy. The impact is important. By participating in this activity, the women who operate in the cooperative sector have managed to improve their living standards and conditions. They were also able to open new horizons, in particular by participating in national and international fairs and exhibitions. This participation has also allowed them to chart new development prospects, particularly in terms of expansion of business sectors or even product diversification. Cooperative work has experienced a significant leap in recent decades. Women’s cooperatives have followed this trend by consolidating their participation in a sector that currently has 19,035 cooperatives. Women’s cooperatives represent 29% of these groups, 2,677 100% women’s cooperatives represented by 40,345 members. These figures are clearly evolving, since in 2015 Morocco had 2,280 100% female cooperatives, that is, 14% of the total number of cooperatives existing on that date.
Breakdown of women’s cooperatives by sector at the end of 2017
At the sectoral level, it is the female artisan cooperatives that predominate with 1,190 cooperatives and 15,184 members, followed by agriculture with 878 cooperatives and 14,526 members when 303 cooperatives operate in Argan, for a total of 7,291 members.
WOMEN’S CLOTHING IN MOROCCO
The clothing worn by women in Morocco differs completely according to regions, ethnicity and socio-professional categories. The clothing of city dwellers has nothing to do with that of rural women, for example. The fact is that everywhere, men traditionally wear djellabas. The latter always has a hood, very wide sleeves and is cut from wool or cotton.
Since the mid-20th century, the djellaba has been attached to women’s wardrobe. At that time, in fact, the Moroccans abandoned the haik, a large piece of cloth, usually white, from which they covered their face and body to go out, in favor of the djellaba, which became an outer garment. Today’s very strict and wide cuts have been replaced today by feminine djellabas much closer to the body, more colorful and inspired by contemporary fashion trends.
Among other traditional clothing is, of course, the caftan, whose origins date back to the Ottoman Empire. This is a long dress for women that you wear for special occasions. Generally very elegant and refined, caftan is a prom dress. Carved from noble materials, velvet, silk and brocade, it is decorated with gold or silver threads and decorated with sumptuous embroidery. The caftan is also an article of clothing that you take at home.
In the panoply of traditional Moroccan clothing we still find the burnoso (black or white), used in the djellaba, and these large baggy pants that we call saroual. In some ceremonies, men also wear a hat, fez, or a white turban in rural areas.
All these clothes are worn with traditional Moroccan shoes, the famous slippers. It is true that in this country, leather work is the fruit of ancient craftsmanship. Furthermore, the word “Morocco” was given to goat and sheep leather produced in Morocco since the 14th century. Although the slipper has been replaced, especially among young people, by more modern shoes, it is still highly appreciated by Moroccans who wear it at home, but also for going out, even during ceremonies. There are generally two types of slippers, those with square ends, Berber-inspired, and the slimmer urban ones, with angular ends and a more refined appearance. In general, the sneakers worn by men are yellow and undecorated. Women’s slippers are available in all colors today, and are sometimes decorated with gold or silver thread.
Moroccan woman wearing kaftan
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