By Women's Voices Now
The Initiatives pour la Promotion de Droits des Femmes Morcaines (IPDFM) is an association located in Meknes, Morocco which provides women with an outlet for marriage, domestic violence, and legal issues. IPDFM has established listening centers and organized both workshops and information sessions, that provide women with information on their rights under the Moudawana and the Constitution.
Additionally, IPDFM is partnered with a lawyer who visits multiple times a week and provides consultations for any legal issues from divorce and child custody, to equal distribution of assets and abuse. Furthermore, the association’s staff occasionally journeys to the countryside where they work to both inform these women of their rights and battle the specific issues that rural women face.
IPDFM’s president, Amal Chakrouni, recently spoke on her association at a WVN event in Meknes. She highlighted the key dimensions of the organization expressed above, and spoke of her goals for the organization to establish listening centers for the youth culture in both high schools and universities. Like her staff, Chakrouni has a charm and a passion to her which is manifested in her successes and her positive impact amongst the Meknes community.
Upon entering the association, women are welcomed by a spirited and well-qualified group of women who have formed a community where women can bond, learn, and help one another. Along with providing women with legal rights and information they also host cooking classes and do their best to help these women in any way possible. Although they do this namely through their willingness to listen and their dedication to the cause, the sounds of laughter and upbeat chit chat that often echo through the small office demonstrate the supportive and comforting environment the staff has uniquely created. One of these wonderful women of IPDFM, who has asked to remain anonymous, agreed to an interview with us where her knowledge on women’s rights issues and her powerful lifestyle were palpable. These characteristics made her a captivating and lively interviewee and continue to make her an invaluable member of the IPDFM team on a daily basis.
WVN: What is your age and do you have children?
IPDFM: I am 27 with no children.
WVN: What is your highest level of education?
IPDFM: I have a BA in private law.
WVN: How did you get your job at IPDFM?
IPDFM: After finishing my studies I did a few different internships until I eventually started working with the lawyer who works with the association. The lawyer asked me if I would like to come with him and do an internship with this organization. I was asked to continue to work with the association and since I liked the work, I decided to come aboard permanently.
WVN: What kind of work do you do with the organization? What are your responsibilities?
IPDFM: At first I was just responsible for listening and giving legal advice since we had a lot of cases coming into the association and the lawyer needed assistance in providing adequate legal counsel to all of our clients. After I did that for some time, I was promoted to president of the listening section of the Association.
WVN: We know that you just recently got married..Does your husband support your work here?
IPDFM: (She laughed as she responded) If it wasn’t because of my work at the association we would have never married. He knows a lot about my work and we often give each other advice on our respective jobs. After she responded in Darija, she added in English, “No problem :)”
WVN: What is your opinion on Women’s rights in Morocco currently? What are things that have improved? And what areas need more improvement?
IPDFM: For now I feel positive, especially when I compare women’s current rights to the years past. For example, before women couldn’t ask for a divorce by themselves because this right was reserved only for men. However, now women have the authority to both ask for and receive such a divorce. But, that's not all, I don’t think that we should settle for just that and I hope for more progress in the coming years.
WVN: What is the next step? What exactly do you hope to accomplish in the coming years?
IPDFM: Proof of marriage is a big issue right now which mainly is happening in rural areas. People get married using only the first verse of the Qu’ran, called Al-Fatiha, and without proper documentation. Later, when the couple has children, they struggle to get their children to school and be recognized because they don’t have the documents to prove their marriage. At this time, the couple comes to the city to ask for the proof of marriage. The city allows this because they have a child, however other issues arise from this.
One big problem is polygamy. Issues with polygamy arise when a man takes a second wife, without his first wife’s permission, and has children with that second wife. Then he can go to the city and obtain a proof of marriage, despite the lack of consent from the first wife, because there are children involved and the government has no choice but to grant it to him.
Another big problem are cases of underage marriage which are happening a lot in rural areas. Women of the age of 18 (the legal age to marry under the Moudawana), are considered spinsters so they almost always marry younger. So, these girls marry at young ages of fifteen or less under Al-Fatiha, live with their husband, have children, and then go to the city for proof of marriage.
These are two loopholes and big issues that we have been working with recently.
WVN: Whats your opinion on how to raise awareness for women’s rights?
IPDFM: The media as well as the government have not made a good effort to raise awareness. The main avenue of awareness has been through the people. The women who come into the association are treated and taken care of in the best way possible, that way when she leaves she will spread the word to her friends and family. Here at the association we hold workshops and make sure the women are well informed on their rights. In that way, organizations like this one, play a big role in small scale awareness. However, it is a slow process and there needs to be more help from the government and the media, who currently are doing very little.
The interview was conducted by Arielle Moss, Evon Babcock, and Liz Vaughn on 26 June 2013, written by Liz Vaughn