A Voice in Meknes

by Arielle Moss

“Fairness must exist between men and women and within humanity as a whole.” –Kaddar 

Women’s Voices Now interns conducted an interview with Kaddar Kawtar, a native of Meknes, Morocco and a graduate from Moulay Ismail University with a degree in English Linguistics.  An active volunteer in several women’s rights groups and charities throughout Meknes, Kaddar is well versed in Morocco’s sociopolitical arena.  Her definition of gender equality was articulately stated as being a matter of fairness between men and women, rather than implying that they are both the same.  “Only until there is fairness will there eventually be an understanding between both sexes.” 

Kaddar expressed her frustration with the Moroccan education system, stating that it is “essentially nonexistent” and that it does not truly represent gender equality.  Because education plays such a vital role in virtually molding a society’s image and the roles of its citizens, it must stay up to date with ever-changing realities.  With a considerable increase of women attending school and obtaining higher degrees and upper-level positions over the past twenty years, the status of women has evolved drastically in Morocco, reflecting an internal, albeit slow, transformation of how women are progressing.  Despite these reforms, outdated images of the stereotypical Moroccan woman still linger.  

Dr. Mossine Nadir, a professor at Moulay Ismail University, expressed that “in certain textbooks, the female characters are represented as the housewife or as being passive, while the male characters are portrayed as the active, dominant members of society”.  This results in “a sort of identity crisis among women, which makes it hard for them to know, let alone fight for their rights,” according to Kaddar.  There are also certain disparities within the educational system that perpetuate inequality.  “Because education is provided for free, we don’t get to question things,” says Kaddar, “such as a teacher giving a better grade to a girl who might be prettier or who might have a personal relationship with the teacher.”   

Although Morocco boasts of its legal reforms that acknowledge the importance of women as equal and necessary players in society, from legitimately recognizing violence against women to raising the legal marriage age to eighteen, significant barriers still impede the path towards gender equality.  To be sure, much has been done in terms of shifting women’s rights issues from being a private concern to a significantly more public and political affair.  Kaddar suggested that by “rejecting the passiveness of society and constantly asking questions”, the Moroccan youth have already spurred the fervent call for gender equality.  Her charisma and staunch convictions echo this.

As for how Women’s Voices Now could help Moroccans improve gender equality, Kaddar so eloquently stated that WVN’s impact is huge.  By sharing the stories of different women from around the world in similar situations, Moroccan women see that they are not alone.  Any success or triumph, no matter how seemingly small, serves as a beacon of inspiration for others.  Her words serve as a reminder of WVN’s mission: “For lasting change, women’s voices calling for full and free expression must be heard, their humanity must be recognized, and their ideas and contributions must be implemented.”