From November 2-8, 2016, I travelled to Morocco on behalf of the Women’s Democracy Network.
My first trip to the field since joining IRI in June, I went to conduct interviews with politically active women in the towns of Rabat and Essaouira for a gender assessment. WDN’s standardized gender assessment tool is used in countries to assess the status of women’s participation in electoral processes and within their political parties.
In Rabat, I interviewed women who have achieved leadership positions in their political parties. In Essaouira, I interviewed young women who have previously participated in IRI-sponsored Leadership Academies and are active in their political parties. As I do not speak Darija (Moroccan Arabic), I worked with Hanane, a young woman from Agadir who has previously participated in IRI’s Youth Leadership Academy, to continue the interviews in Essaouira. In addition to questions that looked at party structure and opportunities within parties for women, the interviews also asked what were the motivators and obstacles for both women and men in politics. Answers varied to some of these questions based on the party the women belonged to, but the overarching theme was that there is a lack of trust, transparency, and communication within parties for women. While some parties may have women involved at higher levels, their election to those positions within the party isn’t always transparent or consistent. In other parties, promises to provide leadership trainings and other opportunities are made, but not kept.
Despite the obstacles they face though, there is no shortage of determination. One young woman said that after seeing her party’s youth list in the most recent elections be all women, “I felt that I can one day be a candidate myself. Even though I’m only 20, the coordinator has encouraged me to apply for candidacy”. Another young woman said that the reason that she is involved in politics is “I have a desire to change the political situation in Morocco, to take advantage of the party and to gain experience and give a particular point of view.”
One young woman, who is active in her political party in Marrakech, was very candid in saying that her party makes empty promises about programs for youth and women. She turned to me and very directly said that women have no roles, no opportunity. She told me that IRI’s trainings in the country have been so important to her and others, because they give her a place to be heard and a place to have new experiences to better herself. It’s one thing to sit behind your desk and read about these women as their stories come in via reports from the field, but it’s entirely another thing to hear what they have to say firsthand.
From the young men and women who participated in the Lessons Learned Conference, the thing that stood out the most was their passion. In a system that doesn’t invest in them, they are seeking out opportunities to grow and develop into the leaders that they want to see in their parties and in their country. They are the reason that we at IRI do what we do.