Are Women Rising or Falling in Morocco?

Laila Nassim

New Orleans   Sitting in a popular restaurant in Rabat, as we enjoyed great Moroccan food, having finished the last meeting of this edition of the Organizers’ Forum, we went around the room and listened to the evaluation of the participants. It has been a moving and important experience for everyone, including the Moroccan organizers who were part of our delegation.

The remarks started on a high note as Laila Nassimi, one of the ReAct local campaign organizers, brought us news in the aftermath of our visit at the home of a political prisoner, Aldi, and our visit to the rally to support the families of political prisoners at the prison the following day. Aldi had been allowed to have a cell phone so he can communicate with his family. Nine prisoners had ended their hunger strike after authorities agreed to stop solitary confinement and allow all of them to be in cells together. Laila claimed that the organizers were crediting some of the results to our participation as foreigners, given the government’s sensitivity to foreign pressure and opinion. It was hard to believe that we had had much impact, but we were delighted to hear that progress had been made.

Several participants remarked how impressed they were by young women and their leadership and how it had given them hope for the future in Morocco. I wasn’t so sure. My overall impression was more measured. Without a doubt we had met some outstanding women, but when I went back and reviewed my notes and the agenda, other than the firebrand director of MALI, most of the women warriors highlighted in the presentations were our own ReAct organizers, Bouchra, Marwa, and of course Laila, herself. The journalists and economists the first day were men. The political leaders and activists the second morning were men. The leaders of the UMT and ODT unions were all men. The cultural organization and NGO, Racine, and the Theater of the Oppressed were also run by men. The housing committee organizer was a man. At the ACM, though the project coordinator for domestics was Rose Monde, her co-director and colleague who presented much of the work was a man, and the ACM was run by a man. We met an NGO head of a community center who was a woman. Indonesia remains the only Islamic country visited by the Organizers’ Forum where almost all of the organizations were run by women.

Bouchra Rhouziani

When we met the head of one of the country’s oldest women’s advocacy group, who was a woman, her report on the status of women in the country was very mixed, much of which was confirmed by the women organizers in our own delegation. The family law passed over a decade ago had been important for the MENA region, but progress had slowed, and in most reports, was moving backward after the 20th of February. In a surprising development, the social pressure against women and their place in the public space seemed to have become more conservative and right wing religious forces became more aggressive after the movement slowed.

The bias against single mothers was horribly shocking. Sara Sojar of the Democratic Feminist Movement told us that the level of discrimination of single mothers included leaving jagged scars, poorly sewn when they were forced to have Cesarean births. Discrimination and misogyny doesn’t get much more personal or despicable than that.

Women are our hope all over the world, and certainly in Morocco as well, and our own women warriors carry great weight into the future, but the tide of progress has been moving against them recently in Morocco, and men – and religion – are still in front leaving women’s issues and very lives too far back for hope to be a plan, when the fight needs to be joined immediately.

Sara Sojar

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Women’s March in Washington Could Be Big

https://www.facebook.com/events/332879180414090/

https://www.facebook.com/events/332879180414090/

Chicago   Speaking of things that we don’t hear much about in recent days, you might wonder what’s happening to the women’s solidarity march that was announced in the aftermath of the Trump election for Washington, DC the day after the inauguration. Originally, styled the Million Women’s March, some pushback led to a name change, but every indication is that, publicity or no, the momentum behind this event is still moving forward.

Some enterprising apps developed almost immediately from city to city that priced quick trips that would ride overnight into DC and roll back almost immediately so that women were back home and working after marching the message forward. Prices were quoted at around $300 even as far away as New Orleans. Right after the election it was almost cheaper to fly into DC, but with momentum building such a flight is over $400 I hear. East Coasters were committing quickly, so it’s likely that much of the hoped for crowd of more than 100,000 crowd will roll south from Boston and New York, bounce over from Philly and Baltimore, and move up from Charlotte and Atlanta, and east from Chicago, Detroit and the like, as is normal for these kinds of mobilizations and marches. Social media also indicates that there will be satellite rallies and marches in many cities around the country where women will come together as well. It may be an undercurrent, but there’s still a buzz that indicates that women haven’t just seen the election as just another day.

Of course with anything looking at Washington on a weekend like the every four-year inaugural blowout, there are going to be complications. Informal reports recently have indicated that the women’s march is having trouble putting its footprints on the Washington Mall, which is the normal venue for events of this size and stature. Others with similar ideas seem to have been in line earlier for permits, so the exact route and venue are still unknown, but that does not seem to be dampening the crowd from what I’m hearing from women here and there.

With or without much attention, I have a feeling that there’s no obstacle big enough to get in the way of women having their say in Washington at the opening of the Trump Administration. There are open wounds and deep hurts that have not been addressed in any way whatsoever, and none of this has to do with the hopes and dreams some may have had for a first woman president. This is about women’s safety, women’s status, and an abiding feeling of new danger that has come to those who hold up half the sky, as the Chinese proverb stated.

Women are mobilizing to force a different future, regardless of the White House and its very personal outrages and offenses that many felt as women. Women also clearly want to be part of something that this generation sees as a pivotal moment in their personal and political history. Whether it’s home or on the Washington Mall, there’s a sense that many women want to be counted so that they can remember where they were and what they did as they greeted a new regime in government that is on the record as threatening them individually and collectively at every turn.

Whether in body or spirit, this will be the place to stand with the women of America.

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