Persistant economic and political gender disparities in Morocco are driven by social norms, says expert

Persistant economic and political gender disparities in Morocco are driven by social norms, says expert

Despite educational progress and legal reforms aimed at promoting gender equality in different areas, deeply rooted societal norms and cultural factors impede gender equity’s progress in Morocco.

A recent survey published by Afrobarometer on September 21, 2023, highlighted that gaps in decision-making, asset ownership, and political participation are striking, even though men and women are relatively equal in educational achievement.

Access to economic opportunities, women’s political empowerment and their representation in government bodies are still lackluster in the Kingdom, despite efforts.

The gender gap in these areas in Morocco is persistant, though the Government has taken considerable legal strides to tackle such disparities.

Mhammed Abderebbi, professor of Sociology at Hassan II University, explained in an interview with MoroccoLatestNews that gender inequality in Morocco, especially in terms of economic and political access, is deeply rooted in societal and social norms.

Abderebbi believes that the weight of deeply ingrained societal norms is what perpetuates gender-based inequalities in Morocco, and that institutionalized gender discrimination is but a symptom.

“The weight of societal norms and cultural values still exists and contributes to the continuation of this gap between men and women, as these norms and values are still built on the background of unequal discrimination between them”, he said.

According to Abderebbi, in the deeply rooted societal norms, there is a tendency for men to occupy the highest positions and ranks, while women are often assigned subordinate status and perceived as reliant on male supervision and protection.

He underscored that “the existing values of honor in society still force males to protect women and strictly monitor their movements, whether within the public or private space.”

This means, that even though Morocco has made noticeable legal reforms to shrink the gap between the two gender groups and protect women’s rights, there will be always a clash with the deeply rooted societal norms as well as cultural values that have been passed down for generations.

Abderebbi commented, “Although Morocco has undertaken important reforms that affect the protection of women and ensuring their equality with men, as represented by the reform of the Family Code, which recognizes the joint responsibility between spouses in managing the family, the prevailing social values, especially family values, still give the utmost importance to women’s obedience to men.”

According to Afrobarometer, Educational achievement in Morocco seems to be relatively equal between both women and men, with similar percentages having post-secondary (33% vs. 35%), secondary education (19% vs. 18%), and no formal schooling (16% vs. 14%).  Luckily, access to primary education is equal for both gender groups.

Abderebbi, who participated in this survey as the national investigator for Morocco, highlighted that equal educational attainment between men and women in the country has increased women’s economic opportunity and political empowerment, particularly in small and medium-sized jobs, including those in the public sector.

However, the impact of educational parity remains relatively limited, especially in management, leadership, and business management.

“This is due to men’s control over political and economic resources. That is, in capitals, companies, and various political or economic institutions, where we often find that the position of Manager, the founder or owner of the institution is always a man, even if the institution is mostly staffed by women,” said the professor.

The persistent gender disparity in leadership positions is a result of ingrained societal beliefs and representations. Only the man, who is characterized by physical, mental, and symbolic qualifications, is considered the right for positions of leadership and management, according to the professor of Sociology.

Despite the various initiatives made by the Moroccan government, gender disparities persist. Even at the level of the continent, North African women face many challenges that hinder them from achieving the levels of freedom and fulfillment they aspire to, according to the Gender and Empowerment in North Africa report.


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