WOMEN SHOULD BE EQUAL TO MEN

There are so many important things to do in Morocco. I love this country, even though there are many problems. My roots are here“…Leila Rhiwi

Not a stereotype, but just as many cultures in Africa have been reputed to limit the roles of women in society, the culture of some Muslim communities seem to favour this rule as some of them have certain rules that restrict women.

The women of Morocco, women of great heritage and beautiful women of Africa keep advocating that the Moudawana code that has existed in Morocco for centuries and has determined the social and economic status of women in Morocco in the last 20 years should be reformed.

The passion to be free has made many Moroccan women rise to challenge tradition as they fight for their equal rights among men.

With the UN as her wielding force, Leila Rhiwi has always been at the forefront of this battle for equality. She stands against all traditional rules and openly proclaims that they are the root of women’s oppression in society.

Leila Rhiwi is from Casablanca, she spent her teen years in Marrakech and schooled in France. She studied communication, management and human resources and specialized in business communication. She is a graduate of the regional educational centre in Rabat. Later, she became a communication teacher at the Mohammedia School of Engineers (EMI).

Her political path started when in 1980 she became a member of the Party for Progress and Socialism and from 1992 to 1996, she was elected municipal councillor in the Municipal Council of Agadal Raid of the capital Rabat of Morocco. Though she left the party because she participated in the alternation of the government of Youssoufi.

Her investment in the liberation of Moroccan women made her learn about the reality that these women live in. She joined the Democratic Association of Moroccan Women in 1986 and chaired it in 1998 and 2003. 

She also founded the Printemps de l’energie in 2000 to fight for the reform of the family code. She started representing women in the UN in 2012 though she was already coordinating the women’s human rights program for the former UNIFEM at the Maghreb level in 2005. Then she was appointed as a program management specialist for that region and represented as the United Nations Persona for gender equality and women’s autonomy.

Why she decided to fight

Leila Rhiwi took to fighting for women to advocate for the reform of the Moudawana code which determined that women remain under the guardianship of their fathers and husbands with no autonomy, regardless of age. Husbands could take on many wives and divorce without a say from the woman. Women could not make major decisions for their lives and their children. If a woman gets pregnant outside wedlock, the woman gets jailed for six months and the child is put in an orphanage. 

Two years as a teacher in Rabat, Sidi yahia di Gharb geared her more. The experience of one of her students jarred her to act as the student stated that “Every night at midnight, my father takes me out of the house and asks me to bring back some money” She immersed herself in this fight at the risk of her personal life.

Her Passion for Women

Her involvement in the UN as a representative of women has afforded her the ability to advocate for women’s rights and against violence towards women, she also aims for economic autonomy of women, female employment, women’s social security and funding for women in agriculture. This involves seeking funds from various countries to aid women. Leila Rhiwi believes that if women who are already in politics and women aiming to join politics start networking, it will be probable for more women to appear in the sphere of politics. In her position, she serves as an intermediary between the government and women. She teaches illiterate women how to delve into their own businesses.

She has also worked on environmental protection because “the environment is very linked to women… Women work a lot in the field of agriculture, so any change in the environment can hurt them. The lack of water, for example, can be very hard for women because they’ll have to walk a lot more in order to find water, which directly affects their health and well-being.”

It is not enough, the fight is not yet won

Even though Leila Rhiwi acknowledges the fact that in recent years more women are getting access to rights and education, it needs to be sustained in years to come, her words, “we must follow through with the implementation of reformsProvision should be made for the revision or elimination of provisions contained in other areas of law, such as family law, inheritance law, which would be contrary to the legislation adopted. 

Though many crimes are being dealt with due to the improvement of laws she believes that one law is still not being adequately addressed, she says “All forms of violence against women should be criminalized. Adequate sentences should be imposed on perpetrators and remedies should be available for all victims, to ensure their care and access to justice. The legislation should also contain provisions ensuring effective enforcement, evaluation and monitoring, to ensure that impunity no longer exists.

All the improvements are not enough because inequalities still exist in the lives of many women who are still unable to participate in the economic part of society. They work but do not get paid and don’t have social protection. 

What she sees and wants

Leila Rhiwi wants a world where there is improvement in the health of women and girls through the granting of access to sexual education. In a world where there will be no child marriage, women are equal to men. She wants men and boys to be taught equality. She wants a Morocco where women have access to education, employment and entrepreneurship. That Morocco should be a place with improved access to and control of resources so that many households can have access to enough income.

Women ought to get exactly what men get. Nothing should set them apart so much that a man gets what two women combined cannot get. Things should be different, the current change is not enough, and women are made for more. Women should be empowered, women should be allowed to work and women should be able to determine and control their own activities without chaperons. 

Written By: Joyce C. Nwezeh Obi-Akejelu (Writer, Social media manager and graphic designer with Africa4AfricaWomen/Assert/PAWES).

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