Mashallah News loves inspiring initiatives and dedicated individuals working for social change. Today, we are launching a new series dubbed Changemakers, which will feature such people and projects. The first in line is a talk with Mouna al-Moutamassik from the Moroccan organisation ADFM, the Democratic Association of Moroccan Women, الجمعية الديموقراطية لنساء المغرب, Association Démocratique des Femmes du Maroc.
The ADFM is an autonomous, feminist, and non-profit organisation established in 1985. With a mission to protect and enhance the human rights and strategic interests of women, the group works with numerous issues. These range from economic rights, female representation in politics, and discrimination to fighting gender-based violence and sexual harassment in Moroccan society.
University student Mouna al-Moutamassik is active in the youth branch of ADFM. Mashallah News met with Mouna at a conference in Stockholm on social activism and spoke to her about whether Morocco is moving in a direction of more equality or not.
Tell us about ADFM and why you decided to get involved in the organisation’s work?
We work on achieving equality between men and women in Morocco. We have many projects and work on several levels, with members of government for instance, trying to convince them to improve the country’s laws.
We have three offices: in Casablanca, Rabat, and Marrakech. They all work with topic-specific issues, covering the whole country. Our Casablanca office works to improve women’s political rights, the Rabat one deals with violence against women, and the Marrakech office focuses on the specific topic of land ownership.
I got involved because of my dad. He was the one who convinced my mother to join, saying that women’s rights need to be fought for. Now, my mother, my sister and I are all in the organisation.
There are many from my mother’s generation in ADFM, but we hope that also the youth group, which I am part of, will get more members. The association has mainly women members, but we work a lot with men too. And many men support what we do.
I got involved because of my dad. He was the one who convinced my mother to join, saying that women’s rights need to be fought for.
What has been ADFM’s focus lately?
Morocco recently got a new constitution, which for the first time talks about equality between men and women. But we are not satisfied with the constitution: it is just like the old one but in new words. Writing a new constitution does not take one to two months, which is what they spent on it now. It came as a response to the February 20 movement, which was a peaceful action for change. The king’s answer was “OK, if you want change, I am with you.”
Morocco recently got a new constitution, which for the first time talks about equality between men and women.
This was all very well. But then, the people writing the constitution got handpicked. And the referendum, well, there was a big campaign to “say yes to the constitution.” They influenced people a lot — they even got imams to go out and say that voting no was haram. Many people did not vote, and then, they went out and said that 98 percent voted yes, which is impossible!
We are not satisfied with the constitution: it is just like the old one but in new words.
Article 19 says that men and women shall enjoy equal civil, political, social, and cultural rights, and that the Moroccan state works on realising parity between men and women. This sounds good, but there are conditions. Everything depends on the rest of the constitution, and if you read that, you will find that many parts do not apply equally for men and women. Those derived from Islamic law usually gives men priority: inheritance law for example. We want to find a solution for that.
What possible solutions do you see?
Finding a solution that does not run counter to the law is not easy: we do not have many laws protecting women. In my own family, we solved it through my dad registering things in the names of us daughters now while he still is alive. But not everyone can do that, and many people do not know about this option.
In my own family, we solved it through my dad registering things in the names of us daughters now while he still is alive.
You have been involved in several important legal improvements during recent years?
Yes. ADFM was involved in the work with the moudawana, the new family code from 2004. The moudawana was a big step, establishing the legal marriage age to 18 for both men and women, and improving the right of women to get a divorce. Divorcing used to be very difficult for women, even for those who suffered from violence in their relationships. Now, it is easier.
We also worked on the nationality code. Earlier, when a Moroccan woman married a non-Moroccan, she was not able to pass her nationality on to her kids. This caused so many problems for children: in many cases when the father was out of the picture, the kid was without a nationality. But now, women can do this, thanks to the work of ADFM and other organisations.
It takes so much time. To convince people to take even a small step requires a lot.
That is big developments.
Yes. But, you know, it takes so much time. To convince people to take even a small step requires a lot. We lobby for equality and parity on all levels, but when we see things like the new constitution, we realise how hard it is to bring about real, actual change.
You work with equality in the political field too.
Yes. In Morocco, almost all leaders are men. We do not have many female politicians at all. That is something we really need: more women in parliament, and more women in leadership positions.
In Morocco, almost all leaders are men. We do not have many female politicians at all.
The recent decision in Tunisia that all lists for the October elections shall have 50 percent women and 50 percent men?
Tunisia has come a long way in this regard. We would love that too. But as the situation is now, we are far from even a third in Morocco. So that would be the first goal, getting women elected to one third of the seats.
In countries like Egypt and Lebanon, NGOs work to put the issue of sexual harassment on the agenda. Tell us about your work?
In Morocco, sexual harassment is a really big problem. It happens everywhere — at work, at university, in the streets. It is like the streets belong to men. The thing is that you have to prove that you have been harassed, with witnesses. But how can you prove that? When someone harasses you, it will not be in front of lots of people. And even the police is part of this: they are the ones supposed to file your complaints, but then when you walk in the street, the police are among those harassing you.
It is like the streets belong to men.
Other patriarchal structures — the monarchy, the economic system?
Feminism is about democracy. It is never democratic to have a leader who decides everything: economics, politics, laws. You need to delegate and separate the power. But things are changing. Before, if you asked someone about politics, they would answer “I do not care, it is all about corrupted people.” But now, more people get engaged. They are not reluctant to talk about politics anymore.
And we do not have equal opportunities in the economic field at all. Men have higher salaries, and they fill all highly ranked positions. I am at university now, and we are some 200 students. 150 of these are girls. But then, what happens after graduation? In the business world, there are only men. Where do all these men come from?
What happens after graduation? In the business world, there are only men. Where do all these men come from?