Women in Morocco have long been active agents in the political sphere and have been instrumental to the production of knowledge and culture, particularly since Morocco’s independence from French rule in 1956.
Moroccan women have been publicly visible in shaping contemporary politics, starting in 1961 with the establishment of the Union Progresiste des Femmes Marocaines, the first exclusively female civil society organization in Morocco, and continuing towards the formation of multiple women’s rights organisations throughout the country in the present.
Various Moroccan women have held positions in the ruling government, cabinet and various high ranking positions in political parties. Despite such achievements, as well as Morocco’s ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the political representation of women in Morocco remains relatively low.
Although the Moroccan constitution guarantees universal suffrage and women are entitled to participate fully in political processes, they are often limited in their ability to exercise their rights as voters, candidates and election administrators due to social, religious, economic and political obstacles. Due to these factors, Moroccan women have often been at the forefront of dissent and the opposition campaigns.
As a result, the proportion of women in the Chamber of Representatives increased from less than 1% to nearly 10.8%. Furthermore, after the reforms in 2011, women obtained a new quota of reserved seats in parliament, which included 60 reserved seats in total. After the elections, 67 women became members of the Moroccan parliament, representing a significant achievement in women’s political status.
Despite these quotas and their positive outcomes, Gender Concerns International observed that the number of female elected representatives at the local, regional and national levels, and thus their representational power, remains low. This may be attributed to the fact that these women are often denied full access to information or resources with which to empower their civic or political agendas. Moreover, connected with this lack of access to information is the high illiteracy rate in Morocco, and particularly in its rural areas where approximately 80% of women are illiterate to some degree.
There have been significant improvements achieved in the realm of women’s rights in Morocco as a result of the committed lobbying and advocacy work of human-rights - and especially many women’s rights - organisations. Additionally in 2004, the King reformed the Moudawana, the family code in Moroccan law which gave women more legal equality and lead to the improvement of the status of women. Among these reforms were the retraction of women’s legal duty to obey their husbands, and the minimum age to enter into marriage was raised to 18. The reforms also improved women´s rights in the case of divorce, the possibility to be granted child custody more easily and placed restrictions on the practices of polygamy.
Gender Concerns International and other NGOs have observed the struggle of civil movements during the past years to advocate for increased gender equality in both the government and society. During its most recent GEOM during the Moroccan elections in 2015, Gender Concerns observed significant participation of women on the ground and remains hopeful for the continued collaboration with civil society in order to achieve full and lasting gender parity in Morocco.