“One foot up, one foot down. For my land, my blood will shed,” one woman chants loudly, as the other women follow suit. This is the scene in Morocco, where many unite to achieve one common goal.
These women are called the Sulaliyyates, members of a powerful grassroots organization of Moroccan women. They have recently gained recognition for fighting back against what they say is being unjustly taken from them by their own country. The movement is gaining ground as the Sulaliyyates fight to reclaim the rights to their land and livelihoods.
The state is currently buying up once publicly owned land and selling it to farming companies, a practice that displaces many of these women in the process. The Sulaliyyate land is their home, their income, and their life. Privatizing the land that traditionally belonged to the Moroccan people is something they will not stand for.
These protests are happening during a very tumultuous time for Morocco, and this is the first time we are really seeing women taking up leadership roles to generate change. In 2004, a shift started when a new family code raised the minimum age for marriage and restricted polygamy, giving women more freedom in regards to marriage. In 2011, the country adopted a new constitution, and it seems to have made some progress toward gender equality.
While the ‘90s and 2000s brought Morocco closer to progressive ideologies, threats to communal lands have continued to encroach on civilian rights. Since the Morocco Free Trade Agreement, the country has felt more inclined to practice privatization of land. As for women, many feminists still see that women are significantly absent from the workforce. Furthermore, they are at a huge disadvantage when compared to men in almost every aspect of life, but especially legally. By law in Morocco, for example, women inherit less than men.
More than 40 percent of Moroccans are employed in agriculture, although, according to the New York Times, about 35 percent of Morocco’s land is designated as Sulaliyyate property. Single women, widows, divorcées and those without sons cannot inherit land, which means that the state can confiscate it without compensation. Throughout history, women have been forcibly removed from these lands because of this law.
The Sulaliyyates hold bi-weekly protests to demand a halt in the state-sanctioned privatization of traditional tribal collectives.
In response, the Interior Ministry has said that women should have a position in these decisions and be included in the dialogue, but those words seem hollow to many, as delegates can deny that request pretty much any time they want.
Originally, the movement against development on civilian land was led by men, but now we are seeing women taking a stand. Their greatest fear is not violence or intimidation, but the loss of tradition, security, and their homes. These brave women and men fight for themselves and a brighter future for their families.
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