The story of a grandmother

By Youba D, Morocco

Scholars of gender have identified two significant divisions among Moroccan women’s movements. Secular-oriented Moroccan women attempt to achieve gender equality outside the realm of religion and based on international conventions, such as the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Alternatively, Islamic-focused Moroccan women turn to feminist interpretations of the Quran to fight for equality between men and women. I agree. However, I can not put my grandmother in one of these two boxes.

During the course of my life, I had the chance to meet many strong women. They impacted my understanding of feminism, struggle, equality and beauty… One of them was a charismatic beautiful Amazigh lady. My gorgeous grandmother Zaina.

It was her who opened my eyes to the injustices women face.

As a young child, I never understood the sadness that clouded my grandmother’s eyes. Whenever we listen to our local music, she started shedding tears. Her face expressed some deep and old pain. This scene always made me wonder what was the story behind those tears. I asked her. She avoided answering.

It is only years later that I understood why. She had always dreamed of becoming a Tarayst (a Chorus leader), however, due to the patriarchal community she grew up in, this dream was taken from her. My grandmother fought back, she left her village to pursue her dream in Casablanca, but her attempt was to no avail. She was caught and forcibly married off, thus depriving her of an education and a career. At an early age, this brave woman who had the courage to revolt against her father and her tribe, found herself surrounded by her new husband’s kids. She was forced to take care of them. She was all the time in conflicts with her husband and his family. She was always insulted because of her attempt to run away from the village.

After this difficult journey, she managed to get a divorce. However, she was obliged to get married as soon as possible. Divorce is one of the most shameful things that could happen to a woman in our region. It is a curse. Her family found her a husband and forced her to marry him. This man was my grandfather, a traditional tribal man. The life of women in oppressive traditional societies is a hard experience…

Years later, the same story would happen to my mother.  The cycle had not been broken. Stories like this are not unfamiliar to me. Because she was a girl, she did not have the chance to go to school and pursue her studies as her twin brother. As a result, he had the privilege to see more in this life and have some achievements she did not have the opportunity to achieve.

I am from the Souss region, a region where for generations due to patriarchal views women have been deprived of an education and social mobility. As a result, it is a region where the presence of women in public spaces is less compared to other regions.

In Morocco, which is a politically stable country, women find themselves, like women everywhere, in constant conflict and fight against patriarchy and oppression. Their lives are a daily struggle for liberation, freedom, independence. Their efforts are to consolidate emancipation and social justice and to challenge traditional thinking and sexist practices.

Witnessing the injustices and inequalities the women in my circle face made me feel the heavy weight of responsibility to stand for women rights. Thus, inspired me to work on issues surrounding gender equality. The only way to defy gender inequalities is to work, Men and women, all together with the one goal: a more equal world.

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