As we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th, we have taken a moment to highlight a few women who have played profound roles in Morocco.
One of the most notable women in the history of Morocco is Fatima Al-Fihri, who founded the University of Al-Karaouine in 859 in Fez. The University of Qarawiyyin is the world’s oldest university still in operation today and houses the oldest library. Fatima’s family must have been remarkable–Fatima’s sister, Mariam Al-Fihri, also founded the al-Andalus Mosque in Fez.
In more recent years, Aïcha Chenna has made waves as a Moroccan social worker and women’s rights advocate. She started her career as a registered nurse when she began working with disadvantaged women as an employee of the country’s Ministry of Health. In 1985, she founded the Association Solidarité Féminine (ASF), a Casablanca-based charity that assists single mothers and victims of abuse. Chenna has received various humanitarian awards for her work, including the 2009 Opus Prize.
Women in Morocco play a prominent role in business as well. Salwa Idrissi Akhannouch is a leading businesswoman in Morocco who founded Aksal Group, which owns a 50% stake in Morocco Mall–the largest shopping mall in Africa and the Middle East and among top five in the world. Ms Akhannouch ranks 46th on Forbes’ list of the 100 Most Powerful Arab Business Women 2015.
Fatima Sadiqi is an important voice for women and gender roles in Islam and has written many books articles on gender and women’s studies in North Africa, transnational and global feminism, and globalisation and social change. Sadiqi is a senior professor of Linguistics and Gender Studies at Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University, in Fez, Morocco and has taught at major universities around the world including Harvard University, California State University at Pomona, University of Zurich and others.
In general, women are the keepers of traditional knowledge in Morocco. From carpet weaving, herb-gathering to couscous rolling, the women in rural villages in the Atlas Mountains have started to use their traditional knowledge to create cooperative businesses. These cooperatives allow women to use their skills to earn income and support their families.
International Women’s Day in Morocco
International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate women and their achievements. It is also a reminder of the many obstacles women faced and how they excelled despite the hurdles. Women today occupy important positions in all walks of life. International Women’s Day was first observed as a popular event after 1977 when the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace.
Don’t be surprised if you receive a flower from a handsome stranger in a train station or an airport. Normally enterprises will have people hand flowers to women with a small card congratulating her on international women’s day.
In addition, many associations in Morocco will celebrate International Women’s day by coming together and holding small parties. The association will often collect donations for local charities that support women. Companies will honour their female employees with small gifts and congratulations on the day.
Would you like to experience couscous rolling with a women’s collective, visit the oldest library in the world, or simply spend time with your girlfriends in an exotic retreat?