The Future of Women’s Empowerment in Morocco
“I look forward to using what I have learned during my fellowship in the United States and my time at AAUW to … continue the work of bridging the gender gap for young Moroccan girls and women.” — Souad Kadi
AAUW hosted Souad Kadi for a month this fall as part of the Professional Fellows Program, implemented by Hands Along the Nile and funded by the U.S. Department of State. As part of her fellowship program, Kadi spent time learning about AAUW’s fundraising, programs, and advocacy. During her fellowship she received leadership and grant writing training, connected with area nonprofits working on women’s and girls’ empowerment in her home country of Morocco, met AAUW members, and visited the United Nations.
Here’s what Kadi had to say about her time at AAUW.
Women face numerous challenges in Moroccan society. The issue of gender inequality is still acute — Morocco ranked 139th out of 145 countries included in the 2015 Global Gender Gap Report published by the World Economic Forum — and lack of educational access for girls is one of the biggest obstacles in the way of bridging Morocco’s gender gap.
I am one of the very few young women from my home village to complete a university degree; many older women from my village are uneducated, and the vast majority of my female peers dropped out of school before starting higher education. The ratio of young educated females to males remains low in Morocco, and the number of women participating in the formal labor force is also below average compared to other countries. Additionally, there are still laws with provisions that work against progress toward gender equality and blatantly give men the upper hand in familial, social, political, and economic matters.
However, some progress for women’s empowerment is being made. More Moroccan civil society leaders are working closely with communities to address issues of gender inequality. The nonprofit organization I work for, Dar Si Hmad (DSH), is committed to enhancing quality educational opportunities and sustainable livelihoods for vulnerable populations, especially women and girls in Morocco. DSH helps women and girls in rural areas through their fogwater harvesting project, capacity-building trainings, and Water School.
The fogwater harvesting system pioneers technology to harvest water from fog and deliver it to marginalized rural communities in Aït Baamrane in southwest Morocco. The system has been successful, reaching approximately 400 individuals, 300 of whom are women. In the past, women from these rural communities would spend approximately four hours each day collecting and transporting water to their homes. Now, thanks to the fogwater harvesting system, women have more free time to dedicate to pursuing education and meaningful employment. These same women also participate in DSH’s new weekly trainings, which teach functional literacy and educate women about income-generating projects.
DSH also implements an annual Water School to expose both girls and boys from rural communities to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. By including girls in the curriculum and exposing them to STEM fields (as recommended in AAUW research), DSH’s Water School is actively taking steps to dismantle persistent sexist stereotypes that devalue Moroccan girls by deeming them less intellectually capable than boys. Approximately 120 girls have participated in the Water School project over the last three years.
I am proud of the impact I have been able to make on women’s empowerment work in Morocco through DSH and I look forward to using what I have learned during my fellowship in the United States and my time at AAUW to strengthen future DSH projects and continue the work of bridging the gender equality gap for young Moroccan girls and women.
The Professional Fellows Program, according to the Department of State, “brings emerging leaders in the fields of legislative process and governance; civic engagement; NGO management; economic empowerment and entrepreneurship; and journalism from around the world to the United States for intensive fellowships designed to broaden their professional expertise.” Fellows examine the relationship between U.S. civil society and government in the United States through the lens of an agency or organization. The program also encourages participants from across the globe “to develop enduring professional ties and lasting partnerships.”
Read about an AAUW fellow who’s making a difference in the lives of girls across Africa through STEM.
Read more about AAUW’s recommendations on how to open STEM fields to women.
Find out how AAUW is helping women like Kadi from all over the world give back to their communities.