The role of women in Morocco has changed rapidly over time. King Mohammed VI’s coronation in 1999 has greatly increased gender equality due to the King’s pursuit of democratisation, human rights and equality.
Women have historically always played an important role in Morocco in all aspects including political, economic and cultural. Two poignant examples include Fatima Al Fihria, who in the 9th century founded the oldest running university in the world called “Al Qarawiyine,” and is located in modern day Fez. The next example is Zineb Al Nafzaouia who was the spouse of Youssef Ben Tashafine, the leader of the Almoravid Empire in the 11th century. She served as his personal advisor on a number of crucial issues.
During the French Protectorate period, women were also crucial facets to Moroccan society. They were the first to demonstrate against the Protectorate. Malika El Fassi for instance was the only women within the Istiqlal (Independence) Party who signed the “Independence Manifesto” in January 1944.
The adoption of the Moudawana (Family Code) in 2004 was a great step forward for women's rights domestically. The Family Code governs matters regarding marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance.
Following the adoption of the Moudawana, His Majesty King Mohammed VI instituted the mourchidat program in 2006. This program was a further step for Morocco in safeguarding the tradition of open and tolerant Islam. The mourchidat program trains women in history, psychology, theology, philosophy and Islamic law. Its goal is to allow women to deliver religious-based services, much like the role of an Imam, excluding the practice of leading prayers. Mourchidats importantly raise awareness about the status of women in Morocco. This practice has also been utilized by some sub-Saharan countries as well as France.
In the 2011 referendum, the Moroccan people approved a new constitution which was a crucial turning point with regards to the promotion of equality between citizens in general and between women and men in particular. Soon after the adoption of this new constitution, family law was heavily reformed to help protect and codify women’s rights in differing aspects. This included marriage, divorce and the prevention of violence against women as well as the criminalisation of sexual harassment, cyber harassment and forced marriages.
Morocco has made significant strides towards narrowing the domestic gender gap. In 2021, the Moroccan Parliament adopted a reform that did not receive much attention but did represent a big step forward by setting mandatory quotas for women on the boards of publicly traded companies. This quota amounted to a target of at least 30% female representation by 2024 and 40% by 2027. Morocco is the first country in the MENA region to mandate women’s participation in top managerial positions, and is one of the only in the world to do so.
Further, the New Development Model places women’s participation in the economy at the forefront of Morocco’s strategy for economic growth. Morocco has an aim of increasing workforce participation to 45% in 2035 compared to the 22% today. The New Development Model, moreover, aims to bolster women’s rights in accordance with the principles of the Constitution and seeks to substantially raise the level of women’s participation in economic, political and social spheres by:
1. Removing social constraints and discriminatory measures that limit women’s participation;
2. Strengthening education, training, integration, and financing mechanisms for women;
3. Promoting and developing greater understanding of equality and parity values and enforcing a zero tolerance for all forms of violence and discrimination against women.
The 2021 elections were also very groundbreaking for women with the election of women as Mayors of three major Moroccan cities. In addition, six women have been appointed to key positions in the Moroccan government increasing from 12.8% in 2011 to 30% in 2021. In diplomacy, more than 35% of Ambassadors are women, across four continents, including the Ambassador here in Australia. In the private sector Moroccan women have been dominating across the MENA region, including:
In addition Moroccan women have been excelling in other fields such as arts, music, literature etc. including: