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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Women in Morocco Set a Model for Rural Communities.

The growth of cooperatives is one example of how women in the Middle East and North Africa are fighting back and showing resilience. North African women have long been celebrated in their societies as protectors of traditional culture. While this role is undoubtedly critical to any society, the relegation of women to perceived “traditional” spheres has, at times, served as a tool of their marginalization. In the North African context of the past half-century, it became common for men to move to cities and pursue well-paying jobs in “modern” sectors of the economy, while women stayed at home in rural villages, raised children and led their lives in traditional ways. But as challenging economic circumstances across the region in the wake of failed structural adjustment policies have left many men unemployed or underemployed, increasing numbers of women are turning this dynamic on its head and using their monopoly on traditional knowledge in creative and innovative ways. In the absence of well-paying, regular work for men, especially in rural areas, women are using traditional knowledge to generate income—and oftentimes providing the glue that holds together families and communities. Take the Middle Atlas Mountains of Morocco, a poor, rural region where many men are struggling to find work, and where both the shortage of jobs and cultural norms prevent many women from seeking work outside their homes. In recent years, a growing focus on women’s roles and economic development from Moroccan communities, the government and foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGO) has opened opportunities for women to use their traditional skills—ranging from carpet weaving to herb-gathering to couscous making—to earn income through participation in cooperative business. Utilizing skills that many women previously used within their households to provide for the basic needs of their families, they are now using them to generate outside income through sales to their community members, other Moroccans and, most notably, to tourists.continue